Bed shortages at hospitals across the south east have grown by more than 60 per cent in seven years because of “serious underfunding”, according to one of the country’s biggest unions.

The GMB union claims that lack of funding has allowed this country’s social care system to “crumble”, with the number of patients stuck in hospital who are ready to be discharged increasing by 46 per cent since 2010.

The union has blamed a lack of available social care support as one of the most common reasons for delays in patients being discharged from hospital.

Gary Palmer, GMB regional organiser, said: “At a time when desperately ill patients are left waiting in hospital corridors due to a lack of beds, these figures are particularly distasteful.

“The Conservatives have let our social care system deteriorate to breaking point due to years of serious underfunding.

“Their drive to undermine and privatise the NHS is causing these shocking bottlenecks and putting people’s lives at risk.”

The Red Cross warned that the NHS was on the verge of a “humanitarian crisis” in the New Year, with the NHS currently consulting on where to make cuts to acute care services at hospitals across south west London.

Acute care include A&E, critical care, emergency surgery, maternity, paediatrics and stroke services.