Bed shortages in NHS hospitals are putting patients at increased risk of infection, according to a new report.
Research by independent health charity the Nuffield Trust revealed that once hospital bed occupancy rises above 85 per cent to 90 per cent, there is an increased risk of infection.
The shortage of beds creates the potential for a perfect storm for the NHS this winter.
It says high bed occupancy rates mean it is “harder and harder” to find space for emergency patients and in order for hospital staff to have time to properly clean beds, it should be kept to around 85 per cent.
Last winter, an average of more than 95 per cent of beds in England's hospitals were occupied every day.
One of the factors is beds being taken up by patients who are medically fit to leave, but who cannot go home because care packages are not in place.
Professor John Appleby, chief economist at the Nuffield Trust told the BBC: “With such high levels of bed occupancy linked to higher infection rates and longer waits in A&E, these pressures pose a real threat to the smooth running of hospitals and, ultimately, to patient safety.”
Ian Cohen, a clinical negligence specialist at Slater and Gordon, added: “The shortage of beds creates the potential for a perfect storm for the NHS this winter.
“The lack of beds results in increased risk of infection. It may also mean patients being discharged sooner than they should be and in some cases having to be readmitted as a result.
“This is just one more example where the lack of funding in the NHS actually impacts on patient care and causes more cost to the NHS in the long run.”
NHS England told the BBC plans were in hand for maximising hospital beds this winter.