decline in hospital beds

The NHS in England is facing increasing pressure as the number of available hospital beds are declining.

An investigation by Professor Sir Brian Jarman, Emeritus Professor and Imperial College School of Medicine (ICSM) has found that the average occupancy levels for hospitals in England have reached more than 89% and not gone below the recommended average of 85% in almost 15 years.

The number of beds have decreased since 1987-1988 from 297,364 beds to 130,404. Hospitals are now treating a much higher amount of people than they did back in the 1980’s.

Sir Brian said the declining number of beds is putting more pressure on hospitals in England.

“The factor that is most important in being most strongly associated with the variation of the death rates in hospitals in England, is that the more doctors per bed – that’s either junior doctors, senior doctors or total doctors per bed – is associated with a lower adjusted death rate in hospital.”

Sir Brian’s statistical work on hospital mortality rates exposed poor standards of care by the NHS in mid-Staffordshire, which led to a public inquiry led by Sir Robert Francis QC.

A former NHS Trust Chief Executive in Lincolnshire, David Bowles, is leading a campaign to make people aware of risks posed by high occupancy rates. He told the BBC:  “The patient needs to understand and be given a proper description of the risks of a hospital.

“If a hospital is seriously over full, you are less likely to get an intensive care bed when you need it; you are less likely to go into coronary care if you need it; you are less likely to have access to diagnostic services when you need it. You may go into the wrong kind of ward for your condition which means your complications are less likely to be picked up or you’re more likely to get hospital-acquired infections. Those risks need to be explained to patients.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health acknowledged the NHS is busier than ever, however said hospitals were coping well with the increased demand.

She added the government was committed to delivering a safer seven-day health service and investing £10bn to fund the NHS’s own plan to transform future services.

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