Royal College of Emergency Medicine Menu Menu

RCEM: the health system must have the bed capacity to cope with demand

28 May 2021

Responding to the Royal College of Surgeons’ calls for an increase in beds, Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“We join with the Royal College of Surgeons in calling for a safe expansion of capacity across the health system. We urgently need staffed beds in the right places for patients, if not, the health service could once again be brought to a breaking point – to the detriment of patients and their health.

“The pressures across the health system are increasing. Primary care, elective care and urgent and emergency care are all facing a rise in demand.

“With the enormous challenge of tackling the backlog of elective care and keeping up with the patient demand in urgent and emergency care, we must have a safe expansion of capacity across the health system, including in social care.

“Bed capacity continues to be significantly reduced (data for Q4 of 2020/21 show there were 6,631 fewer beds than in the same period of the previous year) due to infection prevention control measures – which are essential for patient safety – but as demand increases across system so too does the need for more beds. The danger is that without timely access to beds, or Same Day Emergency Care facilities, our Emergency Departments will become dangerously crowded, with unsafe corridor care returning and any hope of safe infection prevention control in the Emergency Department waiting room lost.

“We are in May, a month which typically, as in previous years, can be quieter, but currently many hospitals across the country are seeing intense pressures. And we anticipate that things will likely become busier, as the restrictions ease, with a possible threat of a further wave of covid and as we approach the autumn and winter months.

“We must have the capacity to cope with current demand and any potential increase in demand, otherwise Emergency Departments could struggle to cope, and elective care could be further delayed. There needs to be clear planning across all of Health and Social Care to identify how capacity can be urgently increased.”


Notes to Editor

Back to top Back to top