Covid patients ‘head to toe’ on trolleys in A&E spark warnings over ‘lethal’ situation

Katherine Henderson said she was “absolutely terrified” by what was happening in some departments. She said she had warned NHS England about the dangers of crowding patients in A&E but that not enough action had been taken.

The “dangerous” situation has sparked warnings from the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine over the “potentially lethal” crowding of patients in A&Es across the country this winter.

She told The Independent: “Crowding in A&E is unsafe, but with coronavirus it is potentially lethal. We have said this endlessly to NHS England.

“Everyone agrees crowding is bad, but what they’re not doing is translating that into action.”

After hearing of the situation in Manchester, she added: “Exactly what we said should not happen is happening. I am absolutely terrified by this. What more can I do? I have highlighted this risk everywhere I can over the past few months.”

She said the NHS had an estimated 9,000 fewer beds than it needed, with Covid-19 meaning that many more had been closed to maintain distance between patients.

Despite these pressures on beds and ambulances delivering patients to A&E, the answer was not to settle for clustering patients in corridors, she said. “It is utterly unacceptable.”

Hospitals in Greater Manchester reported more than 1,300 Covid patients on wards in the region on Wednesday. Hospitals have already started cancelling non-urgent surgery and appointments to try and free up beds and staff, with the city’s Nightingale Hospital preparing to take its first patients.

On Wednesday, the UK death toll from Covid-19 passed 50,000, with 595 deaths reported over the last 24 hours.

The Independent has seen documented reports of Covid-positive patients being forced to mix with other members of the public because of a lack of space and beds at North Manchester General Hospital. Incident reports also warn of understaffing and long delays.

One nurse said: “I’ve seen 20 patients head-to-toe on trolleys on our corridor. We were cohorting nine patients confirmed as Covid positive on trolleys, which makes every person on that corridor a contact, but for some reason this doesn’t seem to count in A&E.

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