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Wales hospital beds warning

23rd April 2009

Doctors’ leaders in Wales have warned lives of patients are being put at risk because of cuts in hospital bed numbers.

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The British Medical Association (BMA) Wales said the situation had caused strain for staff and affected patient welfare.

Figures from the Welsh Assembly government show that from 1997/98 to 2007/08 the total number of NHS beds in Wales fell by nearly 2,000 but the percentage bed occupancy in that time increased from 78.7% to 82.8%.

However, chairman of the BMA's Welsh Consultants Committee Dr Stefan Coghlan said he believes the NHS is being pushed to breaking point.

"More patients are being treated and despite managerial efforts to reduce the time that patients spend in hospital, the average length of stays, is actually increasing, but the number of beds available for them, is shrinking," he said.

"This is putting an intolerable strain on staff and causing a great deal of stress and confusion to patients. We certainly wouldn't be able to cope in a crisis. It is just unsustainable."

The BMA said the situation was getting worse because of unprecedented emergency admissions, more planned surgery to meet targets and efficiency savings.

It wants to see a change in bed occupancy policy.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr Tony Jewell said: "It is not appropriate to judge the NHS simply on the number of beds available."

He said more surgery was being carried out on a short stay basis, bed use was more efficient and there was better management of long term conditions in the community.

 

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