NHS hospital beds have been cut by more than half in the past 30 years – leaving the health service ‘overwhelmed’ and hospitals across the country at breaking point.
Those are the findings of a study by the King’s Fund which reveals that the number of hospital beds has plummeted from 299,000 to 142,000, with the NHS now having fewer acute hospital beds per person than vitually any other comparable health system.
The study also reveals the crisis could deepen – revealing that STPs (sustainability and transformation partnerships) around England propose to cut beds at an even faster rate in the coming years.
Doctors leaders said politicians need to ‘take their heads out of the sand’ on the issue and health leaders have urged local managers and national officials not to cut any more beds without ensuring other services are in place – warning that, actually, more would be needed to cope with the demands of an ageing population and a tough winter ahead.
BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said the report highlights the scale of widespread cuts to hospital beds – just months after a BMA report showed the numbers had fallen by a fifth in the last 10 years.
He said: ‘The UK already has the second lowest number of hospital beds per head to comparable
European nations, a key factor in explaining the extreme pressure on the NHS. With many cuts coming from so-called “transformation plans”, serious questions need to be asked about whether these plans are realistic and evidence-based given it defies logic to cut bed numbers when we already don’t have enough.
‘High bed occupancy routinely above the recommended limit of 85 per cent is compromising patient safety and is a symptom of wider pressure and demand on an overstretched and underfunded system.
‘It causes further delays in admissions, operations being cancelled and patients being unfairly and sometimes repeatedly let down.’
Article from BMA, 5 October 2017