Concerns over plans to cut beds
29 September 2017
- The King’s Fund publishes a new briefing on hospital bed numbers
- It found that the total number of beds has more than halved over 30 years, while patients treated has increased significantly
- We say plans for further bed cuts are a particular concern when there is clear evidence that NHS trusts are overstretched.
The King’s Fund has published a briefing on hospital bed numbers – NHS hospital bed numbers: then, now, next
It has found that:
- The total number of NHS hospital beds in England has more than halved over the past 30 years, from around 299,000 to 142,000, while the number of patients treated has increased significantly.
- The number of general and acute beds has fallen by 43% since 1987/8.
- There is a growing shortage of beds. In 2016/17, overnight general and acute bed occupancy averaged 90.3%, and over winter regularly exceeded 95%.
Despite the fall in the number of beds, the report argues that there are opportunities to make better use of existing bed stock by preventing avoidable admissions, reducing variations in length of stay and improving the discharge of patients.
Responding to the King’s Fund’s report on hospital bed numbers, the director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said:
“This is a timely and important report.
“NHS trusts recognise the need to transform services and deliver more integrated care for patients, working more effectively with GPs, councils and other local services. Trusts are playing a lead role in adopting new care models as we move to accountable care approaches.
“However, it is clear that some areas are making far more progress than others. We have expressed concerns over how achievable many of the plans are within the available timescales and funding levels.
“Plans for further bed cuts are a particular concern when, as the King’s Fund points out, there is clear evidence that NHS trusts are overstretched. And while there is some evidence that new approaches to integrate care for patients in the vanguard programme may ease growing pressure on hospitals, these are often small in scale and taking time to bed in.
Plans for further bed cuts are a particular concern when, as the King’s Fund points out, there is clear evidence that NHS trusts are overstretched.
“One of the key lessons from last winter was the importance of avoiding unsafe levels of bed occupancy. It is vital that plans for the future reflect the reality of increasing demand from a growing and ageing population.
“Central to this is the need to ensure there are adequate services to provide care closer to people’s homes. We have warned consistently that far from strengthening community-based services, as outlined in the Five year forward view, we are seeing cuts to staff and beds in the community. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”