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Hospital bed postcode lottery revealed

Hospital bed postcode lottery revealed
By Julie Griffiths
31 August 2023

A postcode lottery for hospital beds has been revealed with some areas having fewer per 1,000 people than Mexico, according to analysis.

The findings have come from House of Commons Library research, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats.

It showed Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, in Hackney, London, had just 0.9 beds per 1,000 people in 2022 – 41.4% fewer beds than in 2015.

Those figures place the trust below Mexico, which is the lowest nation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In the Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, there are 33% fewer beds per person compared to 2015.

And Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, in Luton and Bedford, has just 1.7 hospital beds per 1,000 people. That is in line with Colombia, which has the third-fewest number of beds per 1,000 people in the OECD.

Of the 121 Trusts where there was complete data, 82 had seen a fall in the number of beds since 2015. More than a third (36%) had seen a drop of more than 10% in the number of beds per 1,000 people.

The data revealed that the number of total hospital beds in England has fallen by 2,233 since 2015.

It means there are just 2.3 beds per 1,000 people and that there are 6% fewer hospital beds when compared to the population than there was in 2015.

The UK lags behind other countries in Europe, ranking 23rd out of 24 countries in the number of beds per 1,000 people.

While the UK has just 2.4 beds per 1,000 people, the average in Europe is 4.5 beds. Germany has more than three times as many with 7.8 beds per 1,000 people. 

Liberal Democrat health and social care spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said: ‘We need the urgent rollout of thousands of new staffed beds across the NHS. If not, we will see the same ambulance queues outside our A&Es this winter with patients backed up in corridors in pain.’

In May, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said an increase of 8,527 beds in England is needed. Earlier this month, the Government announced funding for 900 extra beds in England. 

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