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RCS response to Nuffield Trust’s Winter Insight Briefing on bed pressures

16 Dec 2016

Commenting on the Nuffield Trust’s Winter Insight Briefing on bed pressures, Mr Ian Eardley, a consultant urological surgeon and Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: 

“Recently published statistics show that NHS bed occupancy rates are at the highest level they have been for 16 years. This is due in part to underfunding in social care and problems with discharging elderly and frail patients.   

“A shortage of beds puts hospitals and frontline staff under huge pressure, often leading to patients’ planned operations being cancelled to make vital space available for emergency patients. This can be very distressing for patients and their families who have prepared for an operation. 

“We also know that increased bed occupancy rates can make it more difficult for staff to control hospital acquired infection rates such as for MRSA and C. difficile - and make it harder to keep wards clean.

“Yesterday’s announcement that councils can bring forward tax rises of 3% in April and a further 3% in 2018 to fund social care, could help to slightly alleviate some of the pressure on hospitals. However, this will only happen if social care services significantly improve and elderly patients are able to be discharged from hospital with appropriate care arranged for them at home and in the community, so they can continue their recovery.  Without this, the outlook for the NHS remains bleak this winter.”

Notes to editors

  1. In November NHS England published figures from the second quarter of 2016-2017 (July-September) showing that the percentage of beds occupied in wards open overnight has now reached over 89%.  In 2000-01 overnight hospital bed occupancy averaged at 84.7%. 
  2. The statistics can be viewed here:
  3. Last Friday (December 9th) NHS England published the first of its ‘winter daily situation reports’, showing how hospitals performed in the first days of December (1 - 4 December).This shows that A&E attendances increased by 7.8% from 1 - 4 December this year, compared to the equivalent Thursday-Sunday period last year (3 - 6 December).
  4. NHS England’s winter daily situation reports can be viewed here:
  5. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.
  6. For more information, please contact the Press Office:

    Telephone: 020 7869 6047/6052
    Out of hours media enquiries: 07966 486832

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