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Simon Stevens NHS Confederation Conference speech a welcome acknowledgement of capacity issues

19 June 2019

Responding to NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens’ comments that increased capacity in acute care may be needed, Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Chris Moulton, said:  “We are delighted that the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has acknowledged that the NHS needs more acute hospital beds.

“For too long, acting on poor advice from experts, the NHS has reduced bed numbers in the face of a growing and ageing population. Since quarter one of 2010, 14,000 beds – approximately 15% of the entire general bed stock – have been lost. This has coincided with the worst decline in A&E performance ever recorded, with recovery measures seeking to address everything but the root cause of the problem: there have been no vacant beds in which to admit patients from crowded A&E departments.

RCEM has long argued that we need at least 5,000 extra staffed hospital beds to get occupancy rates back down to a safe level (below 85%). More recently, NHS Providers estimate that, to restore full compliance with the Four-Hour Standard, 7,825 additional beds are necessary at an estimated annual cost of £894 million.

“Recognition of the problem is very welcome, but we must see this turned into action. We would urge the NHS and the Government to find a way to increase NHS bed numbers as soon as possible in order to get our A&E Departments back on track and to ensure safe patient care.”

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