The King’s Fund has recently published a report delving into the finer points surrounding the latest NHS bed shortage currently afflicting the country. In it researchers look at figures over the last thirty years that has seen the number of available beds drop by more than 50%.
In some instances positive factors have supported the reduction in number of beds – such as improved hospital treatments and other healthcare developments. Maternity care, for example, has benefitted from improvements meaning mothers generally need to spend less time in a hospital bed. However, the extent of the reductions is not in proportion to the increased number of patients using the NHS.
Here’s how the figures really break down:
- 1974: NHS maintained almost 400,000 beds
- 1979/1980: The number was down to roughly 350,000
- 1987/1988: The number of beds had reached 299,364
- 2016/2017: The number had dropped to 142,568 representing a drop of 52.4% since 1987/1988
This makes for fascinating reading but the drop in numbers for individual categories are even more interesting:
- 1987/1988: Number of general and acute beds was roughly 180,889.
- 2016/2017: The number was down to 102,269.
- This represents a reduction of 43.4%
Within the category of general and acute beds is a subcategory for the long-term care of older patients which fell even more dramatically.
- 1987/1988: 53,000 beds
- 2016/2017: Just under 20,900
- This represents a drop of 60.8%
- Acute care for the elderly also dropped by 21% over the same period.
Overnight mental health and learning disability has seen the greatest reductions from 1987/1988 to 2016/2017:
- Mental Health Beds: Decreased by 72.1%
- Learning Disability Beds: Decreased by 96.4%
However these figures have been affected by the switch to caring for these patients in the community rather than in institutional facilities.
Also we need to mention that the number of day-only beds has risen dramatically, pointing to changes in the way patients are being admitted and treated.
- 1987/1988: roughy 2,000 day-only beds.
- 2016/2017: 12,463 day-only beds
- This represents an increase of over 520%
As a percentage of the total number of NHS beds day-only beds have increased in the following way:
1987/1988: less than 1%
2016/2017: roughly 8.7%
These changes mean that the way beds are used in the NHS has been transformed in the last thirty years with general and acute beds now accounting for a greater percentage than previously.
- 1987/1988: 60.4% of total NHS beds were for general and acute cases.
- 2016/2017: 72.8% of total NHS beds were for general and acute cases.