“Hospitals are mothballing scores of wards, closing them to patients despite the NHS’s ongoing beds crisis, new figures reveal.
At the last count in September 82 “ghost wards” were recorded containing 1,429 empty beds, the equivalent of two entire hospitals, according to data provided by hospital trusts across England. It represents a sharp increase on the 32 wards and 502 beds that were unused four years earlier, statistics obtained under freedom of information laws show.
The closures, often a result of hospitals not having enough staff or the money to keep wards open, have occurred at a time when the health service is under unprecedented pressure and struggling to cope with demand for beds.
Doctors’ leaders reacted with disbelief to the revelations, which come after the NHS endured its toughest winter for many years, during which many hospitals ran out of beds.
“Given the pressures on the whole system, which suggest the NHS is 5,000 beds short of what it needed this winter, [this situation] is amazing and is almost always caused by not having enough money or staff,” said Dr Nick Scriven, the president of the Society for Acute Medicine. …”