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Close hospital beds to save money, says report

Some regions of the country should close more than a quarter of their hospital beds to save on running costs and improve care for individual patients, a think-tank has said.

The regions that would see the largest cut backs include London, the North East and the North West, while across the whole country more than 30,000 beds should be sacrificed to better focus resources on quality of care, according to Reform.

It is hoped fewer beds would create competition across hospitals, driving up standards.

The centre-right think tank also called on the Government and opposition parties to stop interfering in local decision-making about NHS ward closures.

The Reform report highlights the number of beds being taken up by elderly patients who could be living elsewhere - so-called “bed blockers”.

“The highest rates of occupancy are for geriatric and acute plus geriatric care, with 92% and 87% respectively. These high rates of occupancy could reflect the blocking of beds by patients who could be treated in the community.”

The study, Fewer hospitals, more competition, says the NHS has been right to reduce hospital beds by nearly a half since 1987, from 270,000 to 160,000 in England

The latest challenges in health care - helping people manage long-term conditions such as diabetes and improving the quality of life for survivors of disease - are less reliant on hospitals, it said.

These conditions can be mostly managed in the community, which cuts cost and moves care away from hospitals.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “Efficiencies are about making sure that trusts can continue to provide high-quality care at a time when spending is going to be tighter across the whole public sector.

“Each trust will have to decide how best it can do this and how it can best protect the needs of patients.

“This is achievable - focusing on improving quality, productivity and innovation across the NHS will not only improve care but also save money across the NHS.”

Readers' comments (11)

  • Can someone please shut these people up. They obviously haven't a clue what the hell they are on about. They are probably a think tank made up of ex patients who are of the opinion that hospital stays should be akin to a relaxing hotel room in the med.

    And this comes at a time when the NHS is criticised for treating patients in the corridor because not enough beds are available!! What are these people on? Seriously! No wonder the NHS is dying when it is influenced and run by idiots like these.

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  • We've had bed blockers for years, nothing new there then. This report is a load of hogwash, quite simply there are bed blockers because it takes so long to find somewhere for them to go. Fine, go ahead and close acute beds but they must open up a lot more intermediate care beds first. Funny how this report comes hot on the heels of the one lashing the NHS for nursing patients in cupboards! Reduce beds and there is no place else to put a patient but in the cupboard.

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  • The NHS bleeds money on resources such as 'think tank groups', employing pen pushers to sit and debate in comfortable board rooms. It seems to have lost sight of where the money should be spent, employing suitably qualified staff to provide direct patient care and improve the 'outcomes' necessary to turn over the beds through administering good quality and safe practices to our patients. The very ones whom in contrast are often nursed in sub-standard and poorly maintained wards.

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  • "Reform" is in serious need of a reality session! Perhaps a period of time in the real world, with real people would help them to make sensible proposals instead of the current daft offerings.

    Do these people actually get paid for such nonsense? Please don't tell me its taxpayers money!!!!!

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  • I had always believed that the NHS was something to be proud of, but really it is time it went! If (as a body) it feels that this is a justified way to spend money rather than PROVIDING THE BEDS AND STAFF WE URGENTLY NEED (more of), get rid, start from scratch

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  • ITs already happening,create competition!!! drive up standards!!! rubbish words to cover up what really should be said....we are skint!! end of.Foundation status!!!!..means we want to run our own show,we're a business now,but weve made a mess,my "foundation trust is £3million in the red!!! charity money has been frozen,incase they need to er!!!! borrow !!!! from it,( by the way that means thank you the public for all your donations,cake sales,fetes etc for a specific area,but we the foundation will use it how they want and that probably wont be where it was intended)
    While we're at it we will cut education budget,if you want to improve yourself,please go ahead,but do remember..pay for it yourself,do please undertake the study on your days off and your annual leave,when you've finished the course,very well done try for promotion when we can fund recruitment,oh yes those staff that have just left..er! well we cant replace,but that will hone your teams skills won't it because were not going to reduce capacity in your area.Please remember too that you're employed and paid for "x" amount of hours per week plus 10 on a voluntary basis,because you wont have finished the work in paid time and there isn't a safe skill mix for you to go home on time.
    Oh and dont forget to pay to park your car so you can come to work,have a nice day!!

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  • So where 'in the community' do we put all these people. Shall we just line them up in the road? There are people being nursed in corridors as it is! The report is ridiculous!

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  • I am rapidly becoming a nurse that feels private health care is the way forward. The NHS is in a state of disarray. In all matter of respects it is clear chaos. I work in the NHS and becoming more and more appalled about the decisions made by those who seem to have no clinical background. The enforcements made on us, not only compromises our registration but patient care too. It is a constant battle to fight for patient safety and dignity.
    The closing of wards do not drive standards up, but drives nurses away. This puts too much pressure on the nurses, often seemingly causing adverse events across the board. I am all too familiar with budget cuts, bed cuts, low staff morale, staff retiring to other jobs, inadequate care. We should be standing in unison to fight for our patients. I am witness to staff “calling in sick” as the over burden becomes unbearable. The recent study of patients’ being nursed in kitchens, mop cupboards, staff rooms, and ward sisters office that I am witness too also clearly demonstrates the need for these acute beds. Once more, these beds closed are no longer “acute” beds, but reopen to become DMOP wards, often understaffed, and at that covered by agency or nurses’ not medically orientated for years, and ordered from the wards they usually work. These wards on initial closing were stripped of all equipment, meaning when I covered the ward, I had to borrow blood pressure machines, ECG machines, when a patient “fit for discharge” complained of chest pain indicative of acute MI.
    We should at all times remain patients’ advocates and be their voice. It is often however fraught with “unhelpful” comments and a “put up and shut up attitude”. It is my utter concern that patients’ life’s are being put at risk and only when we are faced with unacceptable care, possibly leading to death will we be listened too. The cynic in me feels that even then, no one is will be there to listen and more importantly ACT.

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  • What a wonderful idea these drones who sit on a politically driven quorum have come up with.... let's go one step further shall we?

    Why not close all the beds, dismiss all Nursing, Medical and associated front line non productive staff as being non essential plebs who work with the smelly masses.

    Then with the moneys saved we can install air conditioning equipment, more computers, desks, coffee machines personalised toilets and perhaps the odd couch and shag pile carpet for the overworked Human Resource and typists teams to rest their weary bones on, in the now redundant and otherwise useless bed spaces.

    Patients will become more likely to die not from their medical problems but by being killed in the fight for a vacant hospital bed.

    I have posted this before and no doubt I will have to post it again, “Politicians, accountants, failed business executives and their 'fiscally prudent' ilk should not be involved with the NHS"..... Except perhaps as patients, and I am not truly convinced about even that level of involvement.

    The Service was never meant to be a profit driven enterprise.

    It ran quite efficiently with a Dean of Medicine and Matron on each site, it was never designed to carry vast numbers of dead wood managers and overpaid, unqualified non medical CEO's and their associated multitude of deputies and personal assistants all of whom rake in huge bonuses for progressing Labour’s privatisation scheme.

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  • I AGREE with ALL the above.

    LISTEN TO THE FRONTLINE STAFF

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  • One of the many reasons why I quit nursing in 2008.

    Well done for continuing to turn the NHS into one big joke!!! It makes me so sad...& they still won't listen, no matter how much we moan...

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