A new report by The Royal College of Emergency Medicine ‘Beds in the NHS’ shows that 13,000 staffed beds are required in the NHS across the UK to drive meaningful change and improvement. Meaningful change and improvement would constitute a significant improvement in A&E waiting times, ambulance response times, ambulance handover delays, and a return to safe bed occupancy levels.
The report details that since 2010/2011 the NHS has lost almost 25,000 beds across the United Kingdom, and since then the health service and its staff have faced accumulating pressures resulting in a sharp increase in long-waiting times, ambulance handover delays, delayed ambulance response times, cancelled elective care operations, and unsafe bed occupancy levels. This has also had severe consequences on mental health care provision.
The College has stated that the current crisis is both a patient safety crisis and a workforce crisis. The fall in bed numbers and deteriorating metrics have a real terms impact on patient care. The health service is not functioning as it should, the challenging circumstances mean that staff are unable to provide the quick and effective high-quality care they are trained to provide. Patients are distressed by long-waiting times, as are staff who face increasing levels of burnout, exhaustion, and moral injury.
Dr Adrian Boyle, Vice President of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said, “The Urgent and Emergency Care system is in crisis. The situation is dire and demands meaningful action. Ultimately, there are widespread staffing shortages leading to a shortage of staffed beds in the system. Our latest report “Beds in the NHS” shows that 13,000 staffed beds are required in the NHS across the UK to drive actual change and meaningful improvement.
“Since 2010/11 the NHS has lost 25,000 beds across the UK, as a result bed occupancy has risen, ambulance response times have risen, A&E waiting times have increased, cancelled elective care operations have increased. All evidenced by the fall in four-hour performance, the increase in 12 hour waits, the increase in delayed ambulance response times and rise in ambulance handover delays.
“In April 2022 in England, 24,000 patients were delayed by 12 hours or more (from decision to admit to admission), in April in Scotland, 4,000 patients faced a 12 hour wait (from time of arrival), in Wales, 11,000 patients faced a 12 hour wait (from time of arrival), and in March 2022 in Northern Ireland, 8,581 patients faced a 12 hour wait (from time of arrival).
“These numbers are grim; they should shock all health and political leaders. These numbers translate to real patient harm and a serious patient safety crisis. The health service is not functioning as it should and the UK government must take the steps to prevent further deterioration in performance and drive meaningful improvement, especially ahead of next winter.”