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RCS response to BMA research showing patients are being routinely cared for in ‘temporary’ beds

22 Jun 2019

New data analysed by the BMA reveals hospitals are now routinely caring for patients in beds that should be used only in emergencies or when there are spikes in demand – such as during winter months. Using Freedom of Information requests, the BMA has found hospitals in England are regularly using these extra beds, called “escalation beds”, for routine care.

Responding to the BMA's findings, Professor Cliff Shearman, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said:

“The BMA’s research emphasises the huge and unabated pressure NHS hospitals are under. The idea that we only need to increase bed capacity during the winter, ignores the reality that patients require aftercare that may go beyond one season. 
“The use of escalation beds in the winter fails to acknowledge summer pressures, flu spikes and the increased need for elderly care. It also ignores the reality that these beds need to be staffed. Hospitals aren’t bringing on new staff but instead taking staff from other wards which can lead to planned operations being cancelled. Escalation beds are not a cure for cuts to bed capacity but rather a symptom of a chronic all year round shortage of beds. 
“What is most concerning about these figures in the BMA’s research, is that should this winter prove to be particularly harsh, the impact on these hospitals would be catastrophic. 
“The RCS is calling for a 5-year plan to reduce the waiting list backlog and increase the number of beds in hospitals. General surgical services are struggling due to the lack of beds. A handful of surgeons have told us that they haven’t carried out any routine operations, for example hernia repair, in the past six months because their trusts don’t have enough beds.

“Simon Stevens was right to note this week that NHS bed cuts have gone too far. It is essential that some of the money promised to the NHS last year is directed at this problem.”


Notes to editors

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.

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