Winter Pressures are now affecting the NHS all year round

Early in 2019 the British Medical Association (BMA) published ‘NHS Pressures – Winter 2018/19: A hidden crisis’. The report detailed statistics around A&E attendances and emergency admissions, cancer waiting times and pressures experienced by primary care. The report also gave detailed information on bed occupancy levels across NHS England. Whilst bed occupancy levels last winter were down slightly compared to the previous winter, they still remained at “unsafe levels”. NHS Improvement has stated that at bed occupancy levels above 92%, emergency care standards will deteriorate.

Last winter the bed occupancy rate fell over the festive period before rising to 95% by 7th January and staying above 93% for the entire month. In fact, excluding 21st to 29th December, bed occupancy did not drop below 92% all winter. Bed occupancy remained at 94% in the first few days of March, before NHS England stopped publishing winter situational reports. At that time, 3,428 ‘escalation beds’ remained open, which represented 3.5% of total bed stock.

Here are a few interesting statistics around bed occupancy across NHS England last year: – Only 35 of 134 Trusts managed to keep their average bed occupancy below 92% – One trust spent 59% of the winter at 100% capacity – The total number of general and acute beds peaked at 98,826 this winter, down slightly on last year – 41 trusts (of 134) recorded bed occupancy of 100% on at least one day this winter. In total these trusts recorded 326 days at 100% occupancy.   – The number of ‘escalation beds’ open peaked at 4,327, which represented 4.4% of total beds   In December 2018 the BMA analysed the bed shortage across the NHS, suggesting that it needed an additional 10,000 beds (including escalation beds) this coming winter in order to keep occupancy below dangerous levels.

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Read the full BMA report here.