NHS: Underfunding, underfunding, underfunding

And our CCG’s solution? Cut hoppital beds.

“Hospitals were dangerously full during the recent onset of the winter crisis and breached an edict from NHS bosses to keep one in seven beds free, a new King’s Fund analysis reveals.

England’s 153 acute hospital trusts were told by the health service regulator on 9 December to run at no more than 85% bed occupancy between 19 December and 16 January, the internationally recognised level that hospitals are meant to stick to in order to minimise the risk of potentially deadly infections and to maintain the capacity to deal with emergencies.

Hospitals only managed to meet the target for three days over that period and were running at far higher levels of bed occupancy, often exceeding 95%, the King’s Fund found. Occupancy only dipped below 90% on four days since mid-December, it added.

“Bed occupancy rates above 85% increase the chances of bed shortages and the risk of infection. The fact that hospitals have missed the 85% objective by such a significant amount is further evidence of the huge pressure facing hospitals,” said Richard Murray, the thinktank’s director of policy who undertook the analysis.

The NHS entered the winter period with bed occupancy rates already high by historic standards, given that they were at 87.5% in the normally “quiet” second quarter of 2016/17. “The NHS did indeed achieve occupancy rates below 85%, but only on 23–25 December, when bed occupancy often falls as hospitals discharge as many patients as they can for Christmas, ”said Murray’s analysis.

“However, whatever spare capacity the NHS managed to create was quickly eaten up. As a consequence, it should come as no surprise that early January was an exceptionally difficult time as occupancy rates rose quickly above the 95% mark, although they do appear to have eased somewhat since then.”

Hospitals were operating at close to capacity even though flu, the winter vomiting bug norovirus and extreme, snowy weather, which oridnally might make it more difficult for hospitals to cope, did not cause significant problems. But the fact that unprecedented numbers of trusts were forced to declare an alert in the early weeks of January underlined that hospitals have come under unprecedented strain in recent weeks, Murray said. …”