05:32 GMT25 January 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Nearly 5,500 people died between 2016 and 2019 while waiting for an available bed at NHS hospitals, The Guardian newspaper reported on Monday, citing a study produced by NHS doctors amid a major staffing shortage in the United Kingdom health system.

    "The research shows that delays in emergency departments are harmful for patients and lead to very poor patient experience, and also involve a risk of death, that we have tried to quantify", Moulton said, as quoted by The Guardian.

    Both doctors concluded that these deaths were solely caused by the length of time patients were forced to wait, the newspaper said, and their study is the first medical research to make such a direct correlation.

    According to NHS documents, the operational standard for accident and emergency waiting times sees 95 percent of patients being treated, transferred or discharged within four hours of their arrival. In September of this year, the NHS managed to treat, transfer or discharge just 85.2 percent of patients, according to an official performance report.

    London march in support of the National Health Service (NHS)
    © Sputnik / Evgenia Filimianova
    London march in support of the National Health Service (NHS)

    Commentators have blamed the poor performance of the UK health service on a significant lack of funding, which has led to staff shortages.

    "This is as a direct result of sustained underfunding of the NHS and social care and ongoing shortage of hospital beds", the Patients Association head of policy, John Kell, was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

    According to the forthcoming study, compiled by Dr. Chris Moulton and Dr. Cliff Mann, 5,449 people died as a result of being forced to wait anywhere between six and 11 hours for treatment in accident and emergency units in UK hospitals over the given period.

    The NHS is currently experiencing a significant staffing crisis. According to a November 2018 report published by The King's Fund and the Health Foundation, the gap between staff needed and the number available in the UK health service could reach almost 250,000 by 2030. Brexit is also due to have a significant impact on staffing numbers, as nurses from European Union countries are leaving roles in the NHS, the report noted.

    Snap General Election in UK (36)
    National Health Service (NHS), National Health Service (NHS), Health Crisis, Health, United Kingdom
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