NHS hospitals face ‘chronic’ winter bed shortage,

Figures show 80 per cent of hospitals have breached bed occupancy targets
Figures show 80 per cent of hospitals have breached bed occupancy targets
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MPs have warned of a “chronic” shortage of beds in the NHS, as new figures show four out of five trusts missed targets on free beds this winter.

According to the analysis, 124 NHS trusts breached the standard 85 per cent bed occupancy target every day between December 1 and December 18.

Over a quarter of trusts had bed occupancy rates above 95 percent, it shows, while 34 were so full they did not have a single bed to spare on at least one day during the 18 day period.

Commenting on the findings, the former health minister Norman Lamb claimed they are a “symptom of a cash-strapped NHS struggling to cope with rising demand”.

“Chronic bed shortages have a serious impact on care, with patients facing longer waits, cancelled operations and a higher risk of infection,” he said.

“The Government must stop turning a blind eye to the funding crisis facing the NHS.

“Our health and social care services need an emergency cash injection to prevent this situation worsening in the new year.”

NHS hospitals aim to keep 85 per cent of beds clear to give staff time to clean beds and to help them deal with any sudden rise in admissions.

However, the Lib Dem analysis of Winter Situation Reports shows 124 NHS trusts breached this target everyday between December 1-18 – including Sheffield and Leeds teaching hospitals – while 40 trusts recorded bed occupancy rates of over 95 per cent.

The 34 hospitals that recorded occupancy rates of 100 on at least one day include North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust –which had no beds spare from the 12th to 18th – and Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which had no beds spare from the 11th to 18th.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust also had no beds spare from December 11-15.

Responding to the figures, a Department of Health spokesperson said hospitals “are working hard to increase bed availability over this winter period”.

“The NHS is busier than ever but hospitals are coping well with increased winter demand – supported by an additional £400 million to manage seasonal pressures,” he said.

“We are committed to delivering a safer seven day NHS which is why we have invested £10 billion to fund the NHS’s own plan to transform services in the future”.