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High NHS hospital bed occupancy remains a big infection risk, says RCS

30 June 2010

Hospital patients remain at significant risk of picking up dangerous infections because more information is required about bed occupancy rates on a ward-by-ward basis says the RCS.

The annual publication of the Department of Health's bed occupancy statistics this week shows that bed occupancy rates remain high with general and acute beds occupied almost 87 per cent of the time. Such high occupancy rates do not allow thorough cleaning and changing between patients. This results in a greater risk of infection. The RCS agrees with the National Audit Office report on hospital acquired infections that maximum bed occupancy should not exceed 82 per cent.

John Black, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: "The government has made a great start by publishing weekly infection rates for individual wards. The public can now get a clear idea of which wards are overcrowded. Bed occupancy rates above 82% are a clear predictor of an increased risk of infection after an operation and patients should be given this information. The RCS remains committed to seeing bed occupancy rates fall, as this will significantly improve patient safety."

The annual government statistics on bed occupancy rates may be found here.