Patients are frequently bundled out of NHS hospitals' emergency units before their medical condition has been properly assessed, the Royal College of Nursing heard yesterday at its annual conference.
Peter Carter, the RCN's general secretary, said a poll of more than 500 frontline nurses in accident and emergency departments showed 93% felt under undue pressure from a government target to discharge or admit patients within four hours.
Three-quarters of those polled said patients were regularly admitted to inappropriate wards to meet the target. Carter told the conference in Bournemouth that women needing careful observation after an accident were wheeled off into gynaecological wards and men needing emergency surgery were transferred under sedation into orthopaedic wards.
Although nurses in these other departments did their best to care for patients until the correct facilities became available, they lacked specialist expertise.
The poll found 78% of A&E nurses believed the target led to some patients with multiple and complex needs having their care "rushed and compromised".