‘NHS Needs 10,000 More Beds This Winter’

Hospital workers demanding no bed cuts in the NHS
Hospital workers demanding no bed cuts in the NHS

A NEW BMA analysis shows that the NHS needs up to 10,000 more beds to meet pressures this winter. Hospital emergency care departments in England are on course for their worst winter on record and up to 10,000 additional hospital beds will be needed for patients to be cared for safely.

The analysis also shows that over 300,000 patients could be left waiting on hospital trolleys in emergency care departments for more than four hours before being admitted. The new figures build on a recent BMA analysis, released earlier this month, of NHS England data from the past seven years.

This painted a picture of rising pressure on emergency care departments, with the most recent winter showing record levels of admissions. 200,000 more patients were left stranded on hospital trolleys in emergency care departments than in the same period in 2011, while new lows were registered for other key indicators, such as the four-hour wait to be seen on arrival.

By analysing bed occupancy rates and trends from previous winters, the BMA has produced a likely picture for January to March 2019 and predictions on how many beds the NHS in England needs. This analysis suggests: • Last winter, bed occupancy in general and acute beds peaked at 95.1% in February 2018, despite guidance from the National Audit Office suggesting occupancy should not exceed 85% to avoid impacting on the quality of care.

To bring bed occupancy down to the recommended minimum safe limit, the NHS in England this winter will need to continue using 5,000 escalation beds opened at the peak of the winter crisis last year and will need an additional 5,000 general and acute beds.

Hospitals in busy areas have the greatest need – with London requiring as many as 900 extra beds this winter. Regional figures are included in the briefing papers attached. Without extra resources, the BMA believes approximately 238,000 patients will spend more than four hours waiting to be admitted to hospital, 12,000 higher than the record from the previous winter; if conditions deteriorate more dramatically, a staggering 305,000 could endure long waits on trolleys.

Dr Rob Harwood, BMA consultant committee chair, said: ‘The BMA believes that, at the very least, the NHS in England needs 10,000 hospital beds to meet the rising levels of pressure that we are predicting will come to bear on the NHS this winter. ‘The government must address these endemic resource issues that are denying patients the level of care they deserve.’