82 'ghost wards' a symptom of the drive for efficiency savings

13 April 2018

Responding to today’s figures revealing 1,429 beds were unused in September, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Taj Hassan said: 

"The overall trend of cutting bed numbers over the past decade without adequate planning has undoubtedly had a significant impact on patient care, and unused beds are a symptom of greater problems.

"A reduction in bed numbers has been driven by efficiency savings and the need to balance budgets in the short term. These mothballed beds are also the result of poor medium to long term planning – the misguided notion that the NHS will save money through reconfiguration and by transferring care to the community without putting those community structures into place. The acute and chronic shortages of nurses with which to staff them consistently and safely is now the major factor affecting many hospitals.

"Some of these beds will be used as escalation capacity in winter when they will often be staffed by agency nurses and overstretched medical teams.

"However, this does not mean that we are not still chronically short of properly staffed beds. In quarter 2 of 2017-18 there were 16,841 fewer overnight beds in the NHS in England than there were in quarter 1 of 2010-11 – a decline of 11.66%."