Seven in ten hospital trusts are failing to meet national safety standards, according to reports.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) reported that 96 out of 148 acute and general hospital trusts “required improvement” according to their standards.
A total of six rated “inadequate” with the rest at a “good” level, and none being considered “outstanding”.
Analysis by the Observer said that of 14 reports compiled by the CQC since June, half suggested staff shortages were to blame for falling standards.
Imperial College Healthcare in London was said to have not had enough staff “with the right qualifications, skills, training and experience to keep people safe from avoidable harm and abuse and to provide the right care and treatment”.
While Shrewsbury and Telford hospital trust, which was rated inadequate for safety last year, did not have enough nurses “to manage the [emergency services] department safely”.
Inspectors said they had seen the staff shortages “directly impact on patients’ safe care and treatment”.
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Rob Harwood, chair of the consultants committee at the British Medical Association, told the newspaper: “With the NHS chronically underfunded and understaffed for many years, those working there are increasingly expected to deliver care in an unsafe, unsupportive environment, putting the safety of our patients at risk.
“As well as delivering the urgent investment needed on the frontline, the government must get a grip on the workforce crisis to ensure safe staffing levels in the NHS and change the current pension rules in order to retain and motivate its workers rather than pushing them to vote with their feet.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The safety of patients is paramount and all hospitals are required by law to have the right staff in the right place at the right time.
“There are 16,800 more nurses on our wards than in 2010 with 52,000 more in training and to help retain our dedicated staff we are providing more flexibility and career development alongside multi-year pay rises for junior doctors and over a million other NHS workers, including nurses.”
An Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust spokeswoman said: “We have done a huge amount of work since 2017 to ensure staffing levels are safe on all our shifts. We have also made improvements to our recruitment and retention of permanent staff, reducing our reliance on bank and agency colleagues.
“The CQC recently inspected four of our core services all of which were awarded good or outstanding overall with no concerns raised about safe staffing.”
Yahoo News UK has contacted the Department of Health and Shrewsbury and Telford hospital trust for comment.