Safety at four in five hospital trusts in England is not good enough, inspectors say.
Staffing and overcrowding are major concerns – and they warned that patients are at risk as hospitals faced unprecedented pressures.
The Care Quality Commission review also highlighted delays getting tests and treatments and poor care of life-threatening conditions such as sepsis.
Ministers said the findings should be used to root out poor practices.
But inspectors warned some of the problems were beyond the control of hospitals because of rising demands being placed on them.
10 charts that show why the NHS is in trouble
The review of all 136 hospital trusts in the country found 11% were rated as inadequate on safety and 70% required improvement.
Receptionists quizzing patients about why they need to see their GP could be putting some sick people off visiting their surgery, a survey suggests.
Of almost 2,000 adults questioned for Cancer Research UK, four in 10 said they disliked having to discuss their ills with office staff in order to get an appointment.
Many were worried about making a fuss.
Experts say patients must be forceful and not take no for an answer if they have symptoms that need investigating.
The government says it is funding training to help receptionists learn how to be sensitive to patients’ needs.
Receptionists are the first point of contact in primary care and it is their job to decide which patients should see the GP and how urgently.
The number of medical school places will increase by 25% from 2018 under plans to make England “self-sufficient” in training doctors.
The government’s plan will see an expansion in training places from 6,000 to 7,500 a year.
Ministers believe increasing the number of home-grown doctors will be essential given the ageing population.
There is also concern it will become more difficult to recruit doctors trained abroad in the future.
About a quarter of the medical workforce is trained outside the UK, but the impact of Brexit and a global shortage of doctors could make it harder to recruit so many in the future.
Bold health claims have been made for the power of turmeric. Is there anything in them, asks Michael Mosley.
Turmeric is a spice which in its raw form looks a bit like ginger root, but when it’s ground down you get a distinctive yellowy orange powder that’s very popular in South Asian cuisine. Until recently the place you would most likely encounter turmeric would be in chicken tikka masala, one of Britain’s most popular dishes.
These days, thanks to claims that it can improve everything from allergies to depression, it’s become incredibly trendy, not just cooked and sprinkled on food but added to drinks like tea.
The NHS could save millions of pounds if families and doctors were offered mediation when they disagreed on a treatment, a leading consultant said.
Dr Chris Danbury, an anaesthetist at Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital, said it should be made a legal requirement in England and Wales.
Examples of when mediation should be used include disagreements in whether to turn off life support, he said.
This would avoid a case going to the Court of Protection.
Another instance where mediation could be used was when a patient who is mentally competent did not want to accept a treatment they medically needed.