Nearly 200,000 patients a year are being "shuttled" between hospital wards during the night because of increasing demand on beds, new figures show.
Dr Mark Temple, Acute Care Fellow at the Royal College of Physicians, warned the "appalling" practice causes stress to the patient and puts their safety at risk.
A Freedom of Information request by The Times found 195,372 people at 58 trusts in England were moved between the hours of 11pm and 6am last year. However, 57 trusts admitted to not recording the data.
It represents a 17% increase since 2009, compared to a 7% overall rise in hospital admissions.
Last year 20,003 patients were moved more than once, with one patient at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals moved 24 times.
Dr Temple told the newspaper: "One of the things that distresses patients most is the feeling that they're being passed around the hospitals like parcels.
"Moving at any time is stressful but if it's happening in the middle of the night it's particularly stressful.
"They're surfacing on a new ward with a totally new nursing team that they haven't formed any relationship with and that's not acceptable."
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said that it was "dehumanising" and "so far removed from the idea of putting the patient first".
The Government promised to urge trusts to minimise needlessly shunting patients around hospitals.
Dan Poulter, a health minister, said: "It can be distressing for patients and their families to move wards overnight and that's why we will be asking trust boards to see what can be done to minimise transfers which are not for good clinical reasons or to improve patients care."
Labour health spokesman Jamie Reed said: "This growing practice is undignified and unfair on vulnerable patients, especially the elderly.
"Hospitals clearly aren't coping with the pressure they are under. David Cameron's decision to waste £3 billion on an NHS reorganisation while social care support is stripped back has left wards struggling to discharge older people back home. Wards are full to bursting and these patients are paying a heavy price.
"Ministers were warned about this two years ago. They took no action and the problem has deepened. The Government must take responsibility and get a grip - patients deserve better."