NHS trusts must take urgent steps to make A&E units safe and fit for the twenty-first century, it is claimed.
The new chief inspectors of hospitals, Prof Ted Baker, said it was “not acceptable” to keep “piling patients in to corridors”.
He added that too many hospitals had “wholly unsatisfactory” arrangements that endangered patients, as well as denying privacy and dignity
Prof Baker has written to all hospital chief executives, calling for immediate action to improve safety in A&E, before winter – historically their busiest period.
They are being told ambulances should not be allowed to queue outside A&E wards and patients should not be left in corridors.
Prof Baker told The Daily Telegraph that he was concerned that a culture of “learned helplessness” where staff “leave patients unmonitored and without access to vital supplies such as oxygen.
But the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspector said radical action was needed to stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed.
Prof Baker said: “The model of care we have got is still the model we had in the Sixties and Seventies.
“That is the fundamental thing that needs to change; we need a model of care that is fit for the 21st century and the population as it is now.”
About half of hospital beds are now taken up by people who should not be there he said.
The former hospital medical director, said failings dated back to the last Labour government when not enough action was taken to build up community services.
He said: ““I think the one thing I regret is that 15 or 20 years ago, when we could see the change in the population, the NHS did not change its model of care.
“It should have done it then – there was a lot more money coming in – but we didn’t spend it all on the right things. We didn’t spend it on transformation of the model of care.”
In the past three decades, the population has risen by 16 per cent, but the number of pensioners has risen by more than one third, with increasing numbers living longer but often in frailty and illness.
Next month the CQC will issue a report on the state of the country’s health and care services, which is expected to highlight mounting pressures on hospitals.