Bed occupancy rates hit record high

25 May 2017

Overnight bed occupancy in NHS hospitals was the highest ever recorded in the first three months of this calendar year.

The recommended safe limit is 85 per cent. The average overnight occupancy in hospitals between January and March was 91.4 per cent.

Bed occupancy rates for mental health services were also close to record levels.

In response to the figures published by NHS England, the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said:

“These figures reflect the extraordinary pressures NHS trusts faced during the winter.

“It is important to note these totals expressed as an average do not convey the full extent of the challenges in particular places at particular times, where some services were close to being overwhelmed.

“We know the quality of care, including patient safety, can be compromised when bed occupancy rises above 85 per cent. This puts staff under intolerable pressure. There is an increased risk of infection. And crucially, it means hospitals have less capacity to cope with unpredictable events.

NHS trusts are working at capacity levels beyond those which other international health systems would regard as acceptable, with fewer beds per head of population.

“NHS trusts are working at capacity levels beyond those which other international health systems would regard as acceptable, with fewer beds per head of population. The pressure has been compounded by delays in discharging medically fit patients from hospitals, often because of problems arranging social care. There has also been a worrying fall in intermediate out of hospital bed capacity.

“The situation is unsustainable. We have to ensure the NHS has the capacity to deal with growing demand. And we must act quickly, to prepare for next winter.”

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