NHS facing crisis as demand rises, new figures show

The NHS is under pressure from the growing ageing population and more complex conditions, with almost six million people in England waiting for an emergency care hospital bed, official figures show. Experts said the…

NHS facing crisis as demand rises, new figures show

The NHS is under pressure from the growing ageing population and more complex conditions, with almost six million people in England waiting for an emergency care hospital bed, official figures show.

Experts said the increased number of patients needing hospital care was likely to worsen pressure on the NHS unless it was immediately tackled.

In its latest long-term plan, published last week, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, conceded that the bed capacity challenge was threatening to undermine the government’s attempts to make the NHS more efficient.

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He called for new money to hire more staff for A&E departments, reduce staff absenteeism and introduce new “bedroom blockers” to give extra beds to people needing urgent and emergency care.

But a report for the NHS Confederation, the body representing hospitals and other healthcare providers, says that a “significant and urgent increase” in beds is needed to cope with the increase in demand.

The report said the rise in spending power in people’s pockets, the ageing population and a greater number of complex and complex conditions are resulting in an additional 66,000 emergency bed days a week at hospitals, up from 63,000 in 2016.

The report also called for an immediate increase in mental health hospital beds to reduce “rapidly rising” pressure from inpatient psychiatric wards.

The chairman of the hospital alliance Primary Care Trust Group, Stephen Burke, said: “If the government is serious about addressing NHS bed pressures it should start with committing to a series of actions today.

“We are now on the cusp of needing the biggest real-terms increase in hospital bed space since the NHS was formed. The government needs to plan to achieve that by 2020.”

The number of people in England waiting for an emergency care bed more than doubled in the last five years to reach 5.8 million.

The the report warns of a growing gap between demand and hospital bed numbers.

Overall, £4.3bn a year is needed to meet the need for more beds, including £350m a year on mental health and £700m on the elderly. The extra bed places would be needed across the board, but mainly among hospital trusts with the greatest demand for extra capacity.

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