Member Article

30% less hospital beds

The number of hospital beds has fallen by one third in the last 20 years, but the NHS insists this is as a result of increased levels of care. From 1984 to 2004 the number of hospital beds has reduced from 31%, whilst the number of admissions needing to stay overnight has increased by 57%. Advances in technology and new ways of treating patients mean the NHS needs fewer beds.Dr Gill Morgan, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “We need to move away from this fixation with bricks and mortar. The world is changing, patients’ needs are changing and the NHS is adapting to meet those needs. “We must start judging the NHS by the number of people we make better and keep well, not by the amount of beds which are, after all, only hospital furniture. Developments in technology and changes in the way treatment is delivered mean we simply need fewer beds.“The report outlines seven scenarios where the number of beds can be reduced: 1) When patients prefer to be treated somewhere else, e.g. new chemotherapy treatments can be administered to patients in their homes; 2) When care is more effectively provided elsewhere, e.g. doctors in local surgeries carrying out minor surgery; 3) When technology has changed the type of treatment needed, e.g. keyhole surgery has a shorter recovery time so patients can go home sooner; 4) When chronic disease management improves, e.g. self treatment plans for people with chronic bronchitis help them manage their condition and reduce emergency admissions to hospitals; 5) When changes to emergency care reduce admissions to hospital, e.g. emergency care practitioners in the ambulance service can treat people in their own home; 6) When it is safer for patients to be at a specialist hospital rather than a local one, e.g. in emergency aortic aneurysm surgery, it is better to travel to an expert centre than a local hospital because the patient’s chance of survival is better; 7) When hospitals cut out the waiting around, e.g. patients spend a lot of time waiting for consultant ward round and tests. More efficiently run hospitals cut out the waiting and patients can go home sooner.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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