British Medical Association Suggests ‘Breaking Point’ Becoming Health Service Norm

The British Medical Association has warned that services being stretched to breaking point is becoming the norm throughout the NHS.

Over 15,000 beds have been removed from hospitals across the country since the turn of the decade, which is resulting in huge pressure bearing down on the healthcare system.

This huge removal of provisions represents 10% of overall NHS bed numbers disappearing.

The situation has prompted warnings about patient safety, with the BMA asserting that the decrease in numbers is directly resulting in a long waits in Accident and Emergency.

Just last month, around 75% of hospitals indicated that their occupancy rates have reached 95%; considered to be dangerously inflated.

Managers of hospitals set a target of 85% for occupancy rates in order to ensure that there is a safety margin of beds to cope with any surgical inpatient demand.

In the first quarter of 2010/11 there were 144,455 available beds, but in the same period in 2016/17 the figure was 130,774; a decrease of nearly 10%

Experts assert that this diminishing in the number of beds is roughly comparable to the removal of 24 hospitals from the NHS system.

This is particularly troubling, as the figures indicate that the UK already had the second lowest number of hospital beds per head anywhere in Europe.

And doctors’ leaders note the fact that the number of available hospital beds has fallen by a staggering proportion of over one-third in just 15 years.

BMA council chair Dr Mark Porter suggests that the systemic failure of the NHS is literally on the horizon.

“The UK already has the second lowest number of hospital beds per head in Europe per head and these figures paint an even bleaker picture of an NHS that is at breaking point. Failures within the social care system are also having a considerable knock-on effect on an already stretched and underfunded NHS.”

Porter believes that problems in social care can be blamed for a lot of the organisational difficulty.

“When social care isn’t available, patients experience delays in moving from hospital to appropriate social care settings which damages patient care and places a significant strain on the NHS.”

Responding to the figures and comments of healthcare leaders, a spokesman for NHS England did acknowledge the level of pressure within the system, but claims that that the majority of NHS hospitals are coping with the prevailing climate.

“We continue to see the vast majority of patients within four hours and, in fact, the latest figures published by NHS Digital show that last year the median time to assessment was 11 minutes and, on average, patients left A&E just two hours and 40 minutes after arriving”.

But most healthcare professionals will be rather unconvinced by these assertions.


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