The number of NHS beds has fallen by half in 30 years, and plans for further cutbacks are “unrealistic” | The Kings Fund
A study from The Kings Fund has found that bed numbers – including general and acute, mental illness, learning disability, maternity and day-only beds – have dropped from 299,000 to 142,000 since 1987. Hospitals in England now have the least number of beds for their population compared with any other country in the European Union, with just 2.3 per 1,000 people.
The report explains that this decline is in part due to factors such as an increase in care being delivered outside hospitals. It also highlights the impact of medical innovation including an increase in day-case surgery, which has also had an impact by reducing the time that many patients spend in hospital.
The report however warns that there are signs of a growing shortage of beds. In 2016/17, overnight general and acute bed occupancy averaged 90.3 per cent, and regularly exceeded 95 per cent in winter, well above the level many consider safe. The authors state that in this context, proposals put forward in some sustainability and transformation plans to deliver significant reductions in the number of beds are unrealistic.
Full report: NHS hospital bed numbers: past, present, future