Government announces hike in hospital capacity
The government has announced £1bn to create “sustainable” hospital capacity in the English NHS, including 5,000 emergency care bed spaces.
The funding is included in a two-year delivery plan to help solve overcrowding and delays in emergency care services in time for next winter.
In its plan, the NHS said it will look at making better use of procurement processes to bring the capacity on stream quickly.
According to a report in the Health Service Journal today, 80 per cent of the 5,000 beds will involve turning 4,000 existing temporary beds installed in rooms and corridors into permanent spaces.
An additional 1,000 general and acute beds will be opened, the report said.
The NHS plan said that local health bodies and councils should “maximise the use of existing estate” for the provision of the new facilities.
It added that these local bodies should also make use of modular buildings where possible, “given that they provide flexible capacity and can be brought on stream relatively quickly”.
By April, local health bodies will be required to conduct demand and capacity profiling to identify the areas with the greatest need.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak said: “It will take time to get there but our plan will cut long waiting times by increasing the number of ambulances, staff and beds – stopping the bottlenecks outside A&E and making sure patients are seen and discharged quickly.
“If we meet this ambition, it will represent one of the fastest and longest sustained improvements in emergency waiting times in NHS history. I am determined to deliver this so that families across the country can get the care they need.”
The plan also contains £150m aimed at building 150 new facilities to support mental health urgent and emergency care services.
Other parts of the plan include funding for 800 new ambulances, including 100 specialist mental health vehicles, and an expansion of urgent care in the community, to reduce the need for hospital admission.
Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “We are supportive of the majority of the proposals in this plan, the focus on reducing hospital occupancy is correct.
“Ambitions to increase capacity, grow the workforce and improve discharge are very sensible; delivering on these would undoubtedly improve conditions in emergency departments and hospitals.”