“Corridor care” is becoming the norm in hospitals across England, prompting concerns about patient safety, suggest the results of a survey* of members of the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN’s) Emergency Care Association, published today.
In January, more than 1,000 emergency care nurses (16.5% response rate) in England responded to a survey aiming to find out how extensive this practice has become in hospitals and how it affects nursing staff and patients.
The results indicate that providing care to hospital patients in corridors and other non-clinical areas is becoming the norm, with almost 90% of respondents saying the term “corridor nursing” is now being used at their trust. Nine out of 10 say the safety of patients is being compromised as a result.
Almost three out of four (73%) respondents said they provided care to patients in a non-designated clinical area at least once a day. A further 16% do the same at least once a week.
Nine out of 10 said the frequency of this type of care provision has increased since last winter. And more than two thirds (69%) say they work in a hospital where nursing staff are deployed specifically to look after patients in non-designated clinical areas, such as corridors.
The use of the term ‘corridor nursing’ is being normalised, with almost half (49%) of respondents saying it is formally used in their workplace. An additional 40% say it is used informally.
Most (90%) respondents said that clinical practice becomes physically more difficult, for example, trying to provide intravenous medication, with similar proportions saying that it is difficult to monitor patients, and maintain confidentiality, dignity, and privacy. More than eight out of 10 (85%) said patients’ distress is increased when they are cared for in non-designated clinical area, particularly those with mental health issues.
NHS nursing care is increasingly being delivered in this way to patients waiting to be seen at A&E, and to those who have been judged sick enough to be admitted to hospital, but for whom a bed cannot be found.
David Smith, chair of the RCN’s Emergency Care Association and an experienced A&E nurse in London, said: “As specialist emergency nurses, we are in a privileged position, as we care for people when they need help most. But we’re starting to see more and more care delivered in completely unsuitable locations, as this survey shows.
“The responses reveal how demoralised nursing staff feel about working in these conditions – they are simply not sustainable and could deter future nurses from embarking on this unique and rewarding career.”
The RCN has made it clear that it doesn’t support “corridor nursing” nor the provision of any care in a non-designated clinical area. Any aspect of care being given in a corridor is indicative of “patient flow” in the whole hospital setting, not of the care emergency departments are trying to provide. The nursing staff shortage contributes to issues with flow in and out of emergency care, it says.
The RCN is running a campaign on safe nurse staffing across the UK, calling for investment in the nursing workforce by government and NHS leaders. In England, it is also calling on the government to restore payments for tuition fees for student nurses, and for maintenance grants to be sufficient to cover students’ actual living costs.
“It’s the RCN’s stance that standard operating procedures should be in place to escalate when corridor nursing is happening and for organisational and inter-organisational decisions to determine how additional patients are accommodated across the service rather than solely in emergency department corridors,” it said in a statement, adding that it would prioritise supporting nurses to escalate safety concerns.
*Corridor care: Survey results. Prepared by the Royal College of Nursing, 25 February 2020.