NHS hospitals are under the cosh as they face a rising tide of emergency attendances with a reduced number of front-line beds available, a significant continuing need for beds to treat Covid-19 patients as infection rates increase – and the challenge of tackling the growing backlog of waiting list patients that worsened during the pandemic.
NHS figures analysed by the Health Service Journal show a third of acute trusts (49/145) were operating at 95% or higher levels of occupancy last month with numbers of emergency patients higher than any time since the winter before the pandemic.
However the occupancy rates relate to the reduced numbers of front-line beds, which fell rapidly during 2020 as beds were closed or removed from wards to increase social distancing and reduce dangers of infection.
The HSJ calculates that the average number of acute beds not reserved or in use for Covid patients fell to 89,339 in May, down by over 12,000 from the numbers that had been available at the same time in the last few years before Covid.
Full story in The Lowdown, 14 June 2021