Bed cutbacks leaving hospitals unable to cope

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, has said that the policy of shutting hospital beds has gone too far and left hospitals unable to cope with rise in patient numbers.

In a surprise U-turn, Stevens, who labelled the move a ‘significant gear-shift’, said he wants hospitals to increase their supply of acute and general medical beds, which have fallen by 7,547, from 110,568 to 103,021, since 2010.

The number of beds in NHS hospitals and other facilities has fallen from 144,455 in April to June 2010 to 129,992 in January to March 2018 – a cut of 14,463 or 10 per cent of the total.

Stevens told NHS senior managers: “My personal view is as parts of the country are thinking about acute hospital beds for next five years, the base case should not be expectation of reductions in those hospital beds. Our hospital bed stock is overly pressurised.”

However, he did conceded that boosting bed capacity could prove difficult because that would require more nurses at a time when they are the biggest of the heath service’s many workforce problems. NHS England is already short of 40,000 nurses.

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