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Bed number recovery must gather pace ahead of winter

20 May 2021

Responding to today’s publication of NHS bed availability and overnight occupancy data for Q4 2020/21, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson said:

“At the start of the pandemic, we lost over 10,000 beds due mostly to sensible infection prevention control measures, and we are seeing bed numbers very slowly return to where they were.

“But in Q4 of 2020/21 there were 6,631 fewer beds than in the same period of the previous year, and 60 Trusts had unsafe levels of occupancy in general and acute beds. We must do more to get capacity back to the level it was at pre-pandemic and even then we had too few beds to truly cope. If we go into the coming winter where we are now, we are going to run into serious trouble.

“Attendances and admissions are close to being back to normal levels, and likely to escalate as the world begins to open up again. Without sufficient bed numbers, urgent and emergency care will derail any hope of tackling the backlog in elective care, as beds earmarked for surgery may end up having to be used for emergency patients.

Summer is our best opportunity to enable a recovery. We must act fast, or we will see a return of Emergency Department crowding, a consequence of which will be further delays to the elective care of the 4.7million people currently waiting.”

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