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 minimize 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. 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. 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.

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