Press release: NHS beds

Below is the full 38 Degrees press release on our crowdfunded investigation into the number of spare beds available across NHS England:

For immediate release

Contact: Luke Ilott at 38 Degrees – 02074157179

Controversial new NHS plans could worsen NHS bed occupancy crisis across England as winter approaches

Beds are in dangerously short supply at NHS trusts across England, leaving patients at risk of overcrowding and higher rates of infection as a cold winter approaches, new research reveals today.

The analysis, by campaign organisation 38 Degrees, found that 98% of NHS authorities have so few hospital beds free that they are at increased risk of infection, overcrowding and bed shortages. The National Audit Office has recommended that hospitals have no more than 85% of beds occupied on average for reasons of safety. This comes ahead of winter cold weather when there is typically a surge in admissions.

The research suggests that almost all local NHS services are already overstretched, even before they prepare to reconfigure services in a national drive to save money.

The research from 38 Degrees is the first analysis to map current NHS performance against the cuts and changes to frontline services proposed in Sustainability and Transformation Plans, or STPs, which will come into effect in the new year.

The research found that:

  • Proposals for the Durham, Darlington and Tees, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby STP area include reconfiguration of A&E services (with the likely closure of one A&E unit), although current performance shows they are already failing to meet recommended bed occupancy rates
  • In the South West, STPs in Dorset and Devon have outlined plans to cut beds and Somerset has stated it intends to save £12 million on bed usage, in spite of bed occupancy already around 90% across all three STP footprints
  • Cheshire and Merseyside STP has plans to cut hospital sites, in spite of bed occupancy already running at 88% – already over the National Audit Office guidelines for bed occupancy

The figures reveal the extent of the NHS funding shortage as Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement approaches. Over 110,000 people have signed a 38 Degrees petition calling for more NHS funding in the Autumn Statement in order to cover funding gaps without cutting frontline services.

Amy Lockwood, campaign manager at 38 Degrees, says:

‘What these figures show is that the NHS needs more money. We all want to feel confident that our local hospital can care for us if we get ill this winter. But lots of us will look at these findings and worry that, without more money, our local NHS services might struggle to help us when we need them. Philip Hammond has to listen to the concerns of the British public and give our NHS the money it urgently needs.’

ENDS

Notes to editors:

With millions of members, 38 Degrees is one of the UK’s biggest campaigning organisations. 38 Degrees brings you together with other people to take action on the issues that matter to you and bring about real change in the UK.

www.38degrees.org.uk

38 Degrees are campaigning for increased NHS funding:

http://bit.ly/2fFERuY

Recommended bed occupancy rates are outlined in a National Audit Office report on emergency admissions, specifying the 85% occupancy recommendation: https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/10288-001-Emergency-admissions.pdf

This analysis used bed availability and occupancy figures, published quarterly by NHS England and available https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/bed-availability-and-occupancy/bed-data-overnight/

NHS organisations were mapped according to which STP footprint they sit in, and the percentage was calculated by counting the total number of occupied beds across each STP footprint and dividing it by the total number of available beds across the STP footprint. This does not mean that every hospital or provider is over 85% bed occupancy rate, but shows the rate across the STP footprint