Britain has fewer hospital beds than almost any other rich country – and here’s the reason

This was a corridor in an English hospital’s Accident & Emergency department in early 2017 – and now the situation is worse.

This is from January but is worth reading because it explains a lot:

After more than 12 years in power, the Conservative government can be blamed for many of the NHS’s current problems.

Its refusal, until recently, to have a workforce plan helps explain why one in ten posts in the nhs are vacant.

Cuts to the capital budget have run down hospital premises and led to skimping on medical equipment like scanners.

Britain has 2.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people, compared with 5.7 in France, and 7.8 in Germany. So in the middle of what is perhaps the worst winter in the history of the National Health Service (NHS), it is not surprising that hospitals are rammed.

In the second week of January, 95.7% of beds in acute and general wards in England were occupied, the second-highest figure ever recorded.

High occupancy rates mean that it takes longer for sick patients to be admitted, resulting in record waiting times in accident & emergency (A&E) departments.

In the decades leading up to the covid-19 pandemic, many countries reduced their numbers of hospital beds. Those who did so fastest—including Britain—were celebrated as paragons of caring efficiency.

The idea of bed reductions commanded support among managers and policymakers during the last Labour government.

Given the current crisis, such schemes now seem ludicrous.

Planners underestimated the demands on hospitals from an ageing population and the pressures of winter in a country which does not properly heat its homes, let alone from a disease like covid-19 (which continues to eat up bed capacity even now).

Here’s a thing, though: planners still believe that bed reduction is the right policy – they reckon the right way to deal with an aging population is for people to live independently, in their own homes.

The problem is that nobody in government bothered to fund the alternatives.

And nobody is about to. So this problem will go on and on.

Source: Britain has fewer hospital beds than almost any other rich country | The Economist

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2 thoughts on “Britain has fewer hospital beds than almost any other rich country – and here’s the reason

  1. franceskay

    Not just the absence of planning, it’s the deliberate, cruel underfunding of the NHS since the Tories have been in power, turning it from the best health service in the world to a struggling, threadbare outfit staffed by stressed, unhappy nurses and doctors. Now the economy is suffering because too many people are too ill to work – will that change Tories’ policies?

  2. Hecuba

    As usual it is all about money – our money which the fascist tories claim is actually their personal money. This is the real reason why hospital beds were reduced because it saved the fascist tories money and they could use to waste on their vanity projects!

    No way will the fascist tories or even puppet labour spend any money on increasing numbers of Community Nurses and ensuring the Social Care sector actually does have well paid skilled worker force.

    Aging population don’t count because they aren’t working and as the greedy fascist tories constantly declaim ‘you must work because work will set you free!’ It will also ensure we can continue to exploit the workers by not paying them a living wage!

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