The NHS has lost almost 25,000 beds across the UK in the last decade, according to a damning report says the fall has led to a sharp rise in waiting times for A&E, ambulances and operations.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said the huge loss of beds since 2010-11 was causing “real patient harm” and a “serious patient safety crisis”. At least 13,000 more beds are urgently needed, it added, in order to tackle “unsafe” bed occupancy levels and “grim” waiting times for emergency care and handover delays outside hospitals.
Patients are increasingly “distressed” by long waiting times, the college said, as are NHS staff who face mounting levels of burnout, exhaustion and moral injury. The UK has the second lowest number of beds per 1,000 people in Europe at 2.42 and has lost the third largest number of beds per 1,000 population between 2000 and 2021 (40.7%), the report said.
There are currently 162,000 beds in the NHS across the UK, according to the college.
“The situation is dire and demands meaningful action,” said Dr Adrian Boyle, the college’s vice-president. “Since 2010-11 the NHS has lost 25,000 beds across the UK, as a result bed occupancy has risen, ambulance response times have risen, A&E waiting times have increased, cancelled elective care operations have increased.
“These numbers are grim,” Boyle added. “They should shock all health and political leaders. These numbers translate to real patient harm and a serious patient safety crisis. The health service is not functioning as it should and the UK government must take the steps to prevent further deterioration in performance and drive meaningful improvement, especially ahead of next winter.”
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Source: The Guardian, 31 May 2022