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Response to King’s Fund report: Cuts to hospital beds have gone too far

29 Sep 2017

Cuts to hospital beds in England required for overnight stays following planned surgery have gone too far and will make dealing with winter pressures more difficult, the Royal College of Surgeons has said.

The King’s Fund has today (29 September) published a report which warns against further hospital bed cuts. The report’s authors say that NHS plans in some areas to cut hospital beds are undesirable and unachievable.

Commenting on the King’s Fund report and hospital bed shortages, Mr Ian Eardley, a consultant urological surgeon and Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said:
“Today’s warning from the King’s Fund will come as no surprise to frontline hospital staff who struggle every day to provide for their patients because of increasing demands and a shortage of hospital beds. Bed reductions have gone too far.

“Last winter, as overnight bed occupancy in acute hospitals averaged more than 90 per cent, I and too many of my colleagues all around the country were forced to cancel patients’ operations. This was largely due to a lack of beds and delays in transferring patients back into the community.  

“It’s clear delayed transfers of care aren’t being reduced quickly enough ahead of this winter and the shortage of beds will make dealing with the pressures this season brings even more difficult. Coupled with this, an increasing number of frail older patients are ending up in hospital because they have nowhere else to go. Unless sufficient social care and community alternatives receive investment, the situation looks set to worsen in coming years.

“The RCS remains concerned that a number of sustainability and transformation plans are proposing further hospital bed reductions. Today’s reports reemphasises the need for NHS leaders to think carefully about whether this is a good idea without first putting in place better care in the community.

“We agree that current figures for hospital bed shortages are almost certainly an underestimate and that better data collection is needed. Growing numbers of patients come and go during the day, meaning counting bed occupancy at midnight masks the true scale of the 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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