The chronic shortage of NHS beds is at all-time high, and senior surgeons are warning that patient’s lives are at risk.
NHS England have revealed that the shortages are at their highest level since they started collecting data 16 years ago.
During July and September this year, 89 per cent of all hospital beds were occupied overnight. This is a 2 per cent increase on last year.
With the occupancy rate over 85 per cent, The Royal College of Surgeons warn that there is potentially a risk that deadly infections such as MRSA will rise as well.
The failure to discharge patients is often linked to the lack of availability of social care, meaning there is an increasing number of elderly patients staying in hospital unnecessarily.
Ian Eardley, a consultant urological surgeon and vice-president of the college, told The Times: “Today’s figures will come as no surprise to frontline staff who struggle every day to provide for their patients because of increasing demands and a shortage of hospital beds.”
“I and too many of my colleagues all around the country are regularly having to cancel patients’ operations due to a lack of beds and delays in transferring patients back into the community”, he continued.
According the Nuffield Trust the NHS figures only reveal a small part of the problem. They warned that the official statistics only record occupancy at midnight and don’t capture any of the daytime availability issues.
The situation is thought to be on a slippery slope as the government plans to reduce the number of acute beds as part of the NHS transformation and sustainability plans.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said: “Unless and until there is additional government investment in social care, we can only see these difficulties getting worse.”
This week’s autumn statement failed to pledge any extra funding for health and social care, despite reports that the NHS was shamed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development this week for having the lowest number of doctors and hospitals beds in Europe
Mr Eardley added: “We are now seeing increasing numbers of frail, older patients in hospital because they have nowhere else to go. The lack of additional money in the autumn statement for social care and the NHS is only going to make this even harder”.
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