There has been a 10% drop in the number of overnight hospital beds over the past three years, recent figures suggest.
Figures supplied by health minister Ben Bradshaw in response to a Parliamentary question from Tory MP James Gray show that there were 2.14 hospital beds per 1,000 people in England in 2005/06, falling to 2.05 in 2006/07 and 1.98 in 2007/08.
Mr Bradshaw said the numbers reflected the fact that more patients were now treated within a day, without the need for an overnight stay.
But some medical professionals put the drop down to cost-cutting, saying that the pressure on GPs to treat people in the community had intensified.
Dr Paddy Glackin, secretary of Camden and Islington local medical committee in London, said that GPs were now expected to take up the slack after NHS trusts cut costs.
He told Pulse magazine: ‘It’s a rolling door. Every day, GPs have to see patients who have been hurtled out of hospital too quickly.
‘Every single Friday one local hospital is on an emergency beds system and we are fighting to get our patients accepted. We are under pressure continually to manage patients at home.’
But Mr Bradshaw countered by saying that experts agreed it was better to treat patients in the community or only admit them to hospital as day cases.