New figures have outlined the extent of the bed-blocking crisis facing the NHS this winter.
Fifteen hospitals had no spare beds on at least one day recently, according to official statistics.
Meanwhile, beds on general and acute wards at two NHS trusts were full for four days consecutively.
And eight trusts reported “serious operational problems” during the first week of the month.
The statistics were published as part of NHS England’s winter daily situation reports.
These began on 1st December, and are intended to provide an overall picture of the situation in the NHS.
Documenting the issue, the NHS website outlines the data collection process on which the figure are based.
“Daily SitReps are collected from acute trusts each weekday during winter and indicate where there are any winter pressures on the service around the country such as A&E closures and diverts or bed pressures.”
The figures demonstrate the number of beds a hospital has on a given day, and how many beds were occupied.
They are considered to be authoritative and accurate, even if they cannot be asserted to be a 100% clear picture of the actual situation on the ground.
Nonetheless, they can be considered strongly representative of the chronic problems that the NHS faces.
In particular, the crisis gripping social care is underlined by the research.
Bed-blocking is set to be a massive burden on the NHS in winter, with numerous experts pointing to a possible systemic collapse.
Eight trusts dotted around the country, including Chesterfield Royal Hospital, East Lancashire Hospitals and Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust, reported “operational pressures escalation level” of three or higher.
This is defined by the authorities as a situation whereby “the local health and social care system is experiencing major pressures compromising patient flow and continues to increase”.
Official guidance continues noting that “actions taken in OPEL 2 have not succeeded in returning the system to OPEL 1. Further urgent actions are now required across the system by all A&E Delivery Board partners, and increased external support may be required.”
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb was extremely critical of the published figures and government policy.
“The chronic lack of spare beds in our hospitals is a sign of a health and care system in crisis. This must serve us a wake-up call to the Government. Patients this winter will suffer from delays and sub-standard care unless the NHS and social care are given the cash injection they so desperately need.”
The figures once more underline that the situation in social care needs urgent attention.