Headlines: October 5th, 1998

Concern has been raised that the Government might be too concerned with the numbers of hospital beds, rather than looking at the health service as a whole.

The NHS Confederation says it is important to look at how patients can best be treated, rather than ensuring hospitals are full of beds.Chief Executive, Stephen Thornton said: “Having the right kinds of beds in the right places is more important than the total number of beds. Having staff of the right quality and training is vital too.”

“We have devoted a lot of time and energy to reducing our dependence on beds. Better primary care, more day surgery, more procedures done in outpatient clinics and innovative schemes such as ‘hospital at home’ have all resulted in reducing admission and lengths of stay. This is what patients want. They tell us time and again they would rather be treated at home than in hospital.”

Health Secretary Frank Dobson says despite new medicines and treatments, winter peaks demonstrate bed closures have gone too far. In the last ten years it’s thought bed numbers have dropped by 100,000.

The Department of Health inquiry team will draw together existing evidence and data both from this country and other parts of the world. It will also take account of future trends and best practice in patient care. The team will by spring next year and its findings will be made public.