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Corridor care: RCN declares ‘national emergency’ and demands political action

3 Jun 2024

Nursing staff are regularly forced to provide care to patients in chairs and corridors, compromising patient safety and dignity. We’re asking members to call it out and join our fight to eradicate the practice.


An RCN report reveals more than 1 in 3 (37%) nursing staff working in typical hospital settings delivered care in inappropriate settings, such as corridors, on their last shift. Our survey of almost 11,000 frontline nursing staff across the UK shows the extent to which corridor care has been normalised.

Patients are regularly treated on chairs in corridors for extended periods of time, sometimes days. We say that these instances must now be determined as ‘Never Events’ in NHS services, in the same way that having the wrong limb operated on or a foreign object being left inside a patients’ body already are. 

We're asking for mandatory national reporting of patients being cared for in corridors, to reveal the extent of hospital overcrowding, as part of a plan to eradicate the practice. We also need members to raise concerns when care in inappropriate settings takes place. 


In a new RCN report, Corridor Care: Unsafe, Undignified, Unacceptable, our survey findings and member testimonies show the full grave picture of corridor care across the UK. Of those forced to deliver care in inappropriate settings, over half (53%) say it left them without access to life-saving equipment including oxygen and suction. More than two-thirds (67%) said the care they delivered in public compromised patient privacy and dignity.

Thousands of nursing staff report how corridor care has become the norm in almost every corner of a typical hospital setting. Heavy patient flow and lack of capacity sees nursing staff left with no space to place patients. What would have been an emergency measure is now routine.

The report says corridor care is “a symptom of a system in crisis”, with patient demand in all settings, from primary to community and social care, outstripping workforce supply. The result is patients left unable to access care near their homes and instead being forced to turn to hospitals. Poor population health and a lack of investment in prevention is exacerbating the problem, the report says.

Professor Nicola Ranger, Acting RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive, said: “This is a tragedy for our profession. Our once world-leading services are treating patients in car parks and store cupboards. The elderly are languishing on chairs for hours and patients are dying in corridors. The horror of this situation cannot be understated. It is a national emergency for patient safety and today we are raising the alarm. 

“Treating patients in corridors used to be an exceptional circumstance. Now it is a regular occurrence and a symptom of a system in crisis. 

“Patients shouldn’t have to end up at the doors of our emergency departments because they can’t get a GP appointment, a visit from a district nurse or a social care package. But that is the reality. Corridor care is a scourge in our hospitals, but we know the solution is to invest in our entire health and care system - and its nursing workforce.”

Don’t allow corridor care to become normalised, call it out. Find out more about how to raise a concern

Page last updated - 03/06/2024