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UK Hospitals Risk Infections Due to High Bed Occupancy Rates

Update Date: Jan 30, 2017 07:30 AM EST

Hospitals in the UK are becoming dangerously full and are having a hard time managing their target levels of bed occupancy due to the recent onset of the winter crisis. Not being able to stick with the minimum bed occupancy percentage may increase the potential spread of infections and may deter hospitals to handle emergency situations.

The Guardian reports that several hospitals are having a hard time keeping up with the standard "one in seven beds free" due to their higher levels of bed occupancy exceeding 95 percent. England's 153 acute hospitals were already told by the NHS to run with no more than 85 percent bed occupancy between Dec. 19 to Jan. 16.

Bed occupancy in UK hospitals went below 90 percent for four days since the middle of December, but were mostly above the percentage for the rest of the period. When bed occupancy rates are above 85 percent, there is an increase chance of bed shortages and the risk of infection, creating huge pressure on hospitals.

The NHS only managed to achieve bed occupancy rates below 85 percent from Dec. 23 to 25 due to their aim to discharge as many patients as they can possible discharge for Christmas. This resulted to a very difficult time for January where occupancy rates rose above the 95 percent mark.

The rules implemented by the NHS was breached in two hospitals due to overcrowding which led them to treat male and female patients in the same ward, BBC reports. A total of 18 breaches of the NHS standards regarding the treatment of male and female patients were recorded due to overcrowding.

In some cases, critical care wards that can accommodate both male and female patients kept their patients in their critical bed areas for a longer period instead of transferring them into a regular ward because there were no other beds available for them in the hospital. Hospitals are also having a big problem in attending to new patients within the 4-hour target since December due to overcrowding.

Hospitals are really struggling in keeping up with the NHS standards while attending to the needs of their current and new patients. Due to the extra-ordinary winter pressures, trust issues are also surfacing.

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