Confronting full wards and an overflow of patients, hospitals in the United Kingdom (U.K.) are treating patients in areas not designed for clinical care, according to a recent survey of the nation’s nurses.
The survey, conducted by Nursing Times, polled more than 900 nurses and found that about 63% of respondents reported that patients were being moved to “store rooms, mop cupboards,” or a “kitchen area” for treatment. Nearly 60% of respondents who witnessed these situations said that it happened more than once per week, according to the survey. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said the safety of patients is being compromised, as patients may have no access to call bells, water or emergency exits. Meanwhile, hospital staff may have difficulty obtaining medical equipment, emptying urine bottles and providing meals, and the proximity of patient beds increases the risk of infection spread, respondents noted.
Among the nurses who responded to the survey:
83% said they had reported instances of moving patients to senior staff, but just 4% said corrective action had been taken; and 29% said the practice of moving patients happened daily.
Among nurses who raised the issue to management, some reported being bullied or being accused of “not being a team player.” Unions representing health care workers cautioned that the situation may deteriorate because hospitals around the U.K. are planning to shut down clinical wards in order to save money, the London Daily Telegraph notes.
Nurses were told to move patients for several reasons, the survey found. In some cases, patients were moved due to directives from senior managers—even the CEO—or because the hospitals’ four-hour wait time target in the accident and emergency department was “under pressure.” In addition, nurses also were told to move patients because “unfortunately the hospital is full,” according to the survey.
The U.K. Department of Health in a statement said that the “vast majority” of National Health Service (NHS) patients receive safe and effective health care, London’s Times reports. A spokesperson for the health department added that local health providers have the authority to assess the quality of health services.
The director of the U.K. Patients Association said that the survey suggests the practice of moving patients may be more widespread than reported. She added that the survey “highlights the gap between rhetoric and reality in the NHS lottery of care” and that funding for front-line care may be inadequate