NHS bed numbers plunge to 10-year low after Tories axe 13,500

Dr Adrian Boyle admits things are ‘doubly dangerous’ this winter compared to a year ago

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The NHS is heading into winter with the fewest hospital beds in a decade – leaving jam-packed A&Es and patients lined head-to-toe in corridors, came a warning last night.

New figures show a 13,500 fall in general beds since 2010 as exhausted staff battle unprecedented demand.

The British Medical Association warned: “The NHS needs proper support, now more than ever. Otherwise we face a hard winter like no other.”

Data published this week by NHS England revealed there were just 94,787 general beds in September – down more than 5,500 from 100,370 in 2019.

Nurses care for a patient in an intensive care ward treating victims of the coronavirus
(Image: PA)

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In 2010 there were 108,349.

It was reported this week that patients in Manchester, including those with Covid, had been kept “head to toe” on trolleys, with some forced to wait 40 hours for a bed.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine estimates the NHS has 10,000 fewer beds than it will need this winter.

Vice-president Dr Adrian Boyle said: “It was bad last year before Covid – people picked up flu, norovirus. It’s doubly dangerous now.”

NHS chiefs say there are fewer beds because of Covid distancing measures.

But critics blame under-investment by successive Conservative governments.

NHS Providers, which represents trusts, warned some hospitals will have 20 per cent less capacity this winter.

Chief executive Chris Hopson said: “We have been arguing for a long time that the NHS is short of beds. One key reason for the gap is the deepest and longest financial squeeze in NHS history we have seen over the last decade.”

The Department for Health and Social Care said it had put £450m towards A&E upgrades, on top of £31.9bn announced in July for health services to cope with the pandemic.

A spokesman insisted: “We are working hard to provide the NHS with everything it needs this winter.”

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