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Statement on NHS winter data

04 Jan 2018

Professor Derek Alderson, Royal College of Surgeons’ President said:

“It is concerning that bed occupancy, especially for critical care beds, has increased compared to the same period last year.

“In particular, Christmas Day was still above 85% bed occupancy – the level at which has been considered to be safe for patients. This is traditionally one of the quietest days of the year. 

“High bed occupancy limits hospitals’ ability to get patients into hospital quickly and then has a wider knock-on effect on the system such as delays getting patients out of ambulances. High occupancy in critical care is also concerning given the impact this could have on those patients most in need. 

“This is why the NHS England National Emergency Pressures Panel advised hospitals to cancel non-urgent surgery until end of January. It is much better that patients are given several weeks’ notice, rather than a day’s, that their operation won’t go ahead. This avoids wasting their time and today’s data demonstrates the guidance from NHS England was absolutely necessary. 

“Cancelling operations is a necessary evil. But it also highlights the fundamental problem that, despite the welcome extra money provided in the Budget, we still do not have adequate funding or capacity in our health or social care services. The fact that many hospitals have full wards, even after cancelling operations, shows that we simply don’t have sufficient numbers of beds in English hospitals. In fact a recent report from the European Commission showed we have the third lowest in Europe.
“We need to move from continual firefighting and start fixing the more fundamental long-term problems to have a health system that is fully robust for winter months.”


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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