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Bed closures causing A&E delays

17th January 2007

13122006_nursing.jpgA&E waiting time targets are being missed because of bed shortages, say doctors.

Patients are being left waiting in casualty departments, shunted off to 'inappropriate' wards or disacharged too quickly, says a survey from the British Medical Association.

The poll of A&E doctors throughout England found that almost one in nine blamed bed shortages for missing the four-hour target.

The government want 98 per cent of patients to be seen, treated, admitted or discharged within four hours of arrival.

But trusts’ attempts to cut costs in the face of last year's £500m deficit have meant reducing the number of beds available. This leaves emergency patients facing longer waits to be admitted.

Two-thirds of the doctors questioned were concerned that patients were being admitted to ‘inappropriate’ wards due to lack of availability. More than half were concerned patients were being discharged too quickly.

Campaign group Health Emergency reported in January that the NHS has closed more than 2,600 beds in the past 12 months.

The number of hospital beds has been dropping for the past two decades, but health experts say modern surgical techniques, treatments and medicines have reduced the need for long stays.

Doctors were also concerned over the closure and downgrading of many casualty units to make way for the new ‘super A&E’ units.

The government said almost all trusts have hit the four-hour target, and claimed beds were only closed based on clinical need.

It comes as Tony Blair is warned that the NHS crisis could cost the Labour government the next election.

Dr Neeraj Patil an A&E consultant, told 200 doctors, nurses and health workers at a mass lobby of Parliament that the government had created a culture of fear among patients.



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