Patients at Whiston Hospital could be temporarily housed in portable buildings as wards battle “severe” overcrowding.

NHS bosses have applied for permission to install a two-storey portable building in the hospital’s car park that will provide 60 extra beds and relieve pressure on wards currently operating above capacity and offering “inappropriate” levels of care.

In its planning application, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The trust’s A&E department is the busiest on Merseyside and activity is growing faster than other neighbouring Trusts. 

“In addition, bed occupancy within the trust is virtually 100%. The pressure to accommodate non-elective admissions is relentless and leads to poorly patients being inappropriately cared for on trolleys in hospital corridors, and ties-up ambulance crews that are unable to offload their patients.”

Occupancy rates for acute and general beds at the Trust have averaged 95% over the past two years, well above the recommended safe level of 85%.

An additional 60 beds would put the trust at around the safer 85% occupancy rate, assuming admissions did not also increase.

The hospital’s applications states: “This development would contribute towards ameliorating the issue of long waiting times which has been a commonly cited concern and would accordingly serve to make a timely contribution in improving NHS performance which is at its worst level on record.

“Intervention is required at Whiston Hospital so as to maintain the performance standards which as per its latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection are rated as outstanding.”

The portable buildings would house two new 30-bed wards, one as a “step down” ward for patients who no longer need acute treatment and the other as a “decant” ward to allow older wards to be closed for deep cleaning or refurbishment.

They could also be used as overflow wards at times when the hospital is critically overcrowded.

The planning application states that the portable buildings would be in place for “a minimum of five years” in order to “bridge the gap until the more permanent solutions, both on-site and in the community, kick in”.

A spokesperson for the trust said: “As with all other hospitals across the country, we have experienced a significant increase in demand for services and a new modular ward unit will enable the Trust to accommodate the increasing number of patients needing our care.”