An NHS hospital's A&E department is said to be facing enormous pressure, having been described as "in meltdown" after two patients died while waiting on trolleys in corridors while a third was found hanged in a ward.
One woman reportedly died of a heart attack after suffering a 35-hour wait on a trolley, while a man suffered an aneurysm waiting on a trolley at the same hospital.
A third patient was also found hanged on Beech ward in a suspected suicide.
The deaths occurred between New Year's Day and Tuesday (3 January) at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, the BBC reported.
It follows analysis by the Nuffield Trust, which revealed the NHS was on the brink of another winter crisis, prompting a third of hospital trusts in England to warn urgent action was needed to ensure patients were given safe care.
The health think-tank looked at four weeks of hospital data in the run-up to Christmas and found 50 of the 152 NHS trusts in England were at the highest or second highest level of pressure.
Overflowing A&E departments shut their doors to patients more than 140 times in December. This followed a larger than expected increase in patient numbers over the winter period.
Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said the situation could worsen over the next two weeks.
"The real crunch point generally comes in week two or three after the Christmas break [...] There are early signs that there is a problem," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
At the Worcestershire Royal, the BBC reported that on Wednesday (4 January) some 30 patients were forced to wait in the hospital's corridors for treatment, while on Thursday (5 January) there were 23 patients in that position.
Worcestershire Royal said it would not comment on the three reported deaths, citing patient confidentiality. It is not known if the deaths were connected with the winter pressure the hospital acknowledged it was suffering.
John Freeman told The Guardian his wife Pauline, 66, waited 24 hours on a hospital trolley in an A&E corridor at the Worcestershire Royal this week after suffering a stroke, describing the experience as "horrendous".
"My wife woke me up at 4.30am and said she couldn't feel her left side," he said. "The ambulance was there in record time and she was on a trolley at the hospital by 5.30am. And there she stayed."
Freeman, from Worcester, said his wife was positioned close to a doorway and woken up every time it opened. She also struggled to get enough to eat, he added.
He continued: "The nurses were brilliant. They did all they could, but the place was in meltdown. It was manic. At times the corridors were three trolleys deep. There were at least 20 people on trolleys for much of the time. It was very difficult to manoeuvre around them.
"A porter told me they were putting some patients in a decontamination room – basically a big shower room – to cram in more beds. They ran out of pillows and blankets."
The chairman of Worcestershire's patient group Healthwatch, Peter Pinfield, described the situation over the Christmas and new year period at the hospital as "a mess".
"I think it needs a thorough investigation to find out what happened," he said. "I'm certain the relatives of those involved need some answers – from those answers I hope that we can learn some lessons so that this does not happen again."
A spokesman for Worcestershire Royal said: "We can confirm that both of our A&E departments experienced an extremely busy Christmas and new year period, and these pressures are continuing. We have robust plans to deal with such demand and partners across the NHS have supported us in ensuring that patient safety and emergency care [are] maintained.
"These pressures have unfortunately led to patients waiting longer than we would aim for. However, all A&E patients continue to be seen and treated in order of clinical priority. Our focus continues to be on providing safe emergency care."