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Jeremy Hunt has warned that poor care in the NHS could lead to a repeat of the scandal at Mid-Staffordshire trust, as a new report claims many hospitals are "full to bursting".
Research group Dr Foster said hospitals were on average running at 88% of capacity, potentially putting patients at risk of mistakes.
Speaking to tonight's BBC Panorama, the Health Secretary admits that "pockets" of dangerously substandard care may exist throughout the health care system.
"Whilst failings in care at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust may have shocked many, we cannot say with confidence that some of those failings do not exist in pockets elsewhere in the NHS and social care system," he says.
The Healthcare Commission, the NHS regulator at the time of the Mid-Staffs scandal, estimated that up to 1,200 patients may have died because of "appalling" care at hospital between 2005 and 2008.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said the report was a "clear warning" that the NHS was "struggling to cope".
"This is a dangerous situation of the Government's own making and it can't continue complacently blaming the NHS. Ministers must take urgent action to support NHS front-line and ensure patient safety over the coming winter," he said.
Health Minister Daniel Poulter this morning insisted there were sufficient beds to meet demand, but accepted there were periods of the year when hospitals face greater pressure.
Elsewhere, a report from the Nuffield Trust today warns the ageing population and the rising cost of treatments will create a black hole of tens of billions of pounds in the NHS budget by 2022.
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03/12/2012 on Breakfast, BBC One
Summaries and transcripts from TV and radio
Today on World at One, BBC Radio 4
Today on The World at One, BBC Radio 4
Today on The World At One, BBC Radio 4
5 hours ago