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STP plans to reduce bed demand ‘unrealistic’

Can hospitals cut bed numbers even further?

Some sustainability and transformation plans’ moves to reduce demand on beds in secondary care are ‘unrealistic’, say researchers at a think-tank.

The King’s Fund has produced an analysis showing the number of beds in England has fallen from around 299,000 to 142,000 over the past 30 years. At the same time, the number of patients has ‘increased significantly’.

The fund adds that ‘the UK currently has fewer acute beds relative to its population than almost any other comparable health system’.

Researchers found the number of general and acute beds has fallen by 43% since 1987/88, with the bulk of this fall due to closures of beds for the long-term care of older people.

They say that although some initiatives show signs of mitigating the effects of the lower bed numbers, ‘research shows that initiatives to moderate demand for hospital care often struggle to succeed’.

‘In some areas, it may be possible to reduce the number of beds. However, at a national level, with hospitals under real strain from rising demand and a prolonged slowdown in funding, further significant reductions are both unachievable and undesirable,’ says the King’s Fund.

Further information

King’s Fund: NHS hospital bed numbers: past, present, future