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The number of patients on hospital wards in England has been at unsafe levels at nine in 10 NHS trusts this winter, BBC analysis shows.

To minimise the risk of infections and delays in getting treatment, hospitals are meant to have no more than 85% of beds occupied.

But the analysis showed 137 out of 152 hospital trusts have been above that level since the start of December.

NHS bosses said hospitals had major problems discharging frail patients.

They said a lack of care in the community meant they were having to keep patients on wards.

A poll by Ipsos MORI for the BBC has suggested three-quarters of those surveyed in the UK want to see charges increased for people coming from abroad as a way of raising more money for the NHS.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that from April this year, foreign patients could be refused operations unless they cover their costs in advance in England.

Hospitals will be expected to check upfront whether an individual is eligible for free non-urgent care by asking for ID.

  • 85%is the safe level for bed occupancy in hospitals
  • 137 out of 152hospital trusts have been above this level
  • 20more hospitals needed to bring NHS to safe levels

Source: NHS England

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One experienced hospital boss described some of the weeks this winter as the “worst” he had seen in his career.

Meanwhile, patients have been contacting the BBC to report the chaos they have experienced in overcrowded hospitals.

This includes long waits on trolleys for a bed to become free, queues of patients blocking A&E departments, overworked staff on wards and operations being cancelled at the last minute.

‘Mum’s undignified death’

Richard Taylor, 55, from Liverpool, says he was left devastated after watching the “undignified” death of his mum Sheila in January.

She had cancer, but her local cancer centre was full and so was unable to give her end-of-life care.

She was taken to Aintree Hospital but spent 13 hours on a trolley waiting for a bed before being admitted. A week later she died at the age of 78.

before she died

“The nursing staff were fantastic, but there is only so much they can do,” Mr Taylor said.

“It was awful watching someone die in this extremely undignified way. If she was an animal, they would have put her down – she was starving and dehydrated.

“The NHS is a great thing, but it is under the hammer.”

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