NHS Bed Shortages

Whilst we have all known that the NHS has been struggling to stay on its feet for a long time now, it appears that 2017 could be the year it finally crumbles, with 9 out of 10 hospitals reporting unsafe numbers of patients on their wards this winter, and record numbers of patients having to wait for longer than four hours for A and E care. It seems that the majority of the problems the NHS are facing stem from the our ageing population; for example, more and more operations are being delayed, and sometimes even cancelled as a result of there being no beds available for patients to recover in, primarily caused by elderly patients being unable to return home due to a lack of social care. Despite figures showing that only 1% of operations were cancelled last minute, this translates to just over 82,000 operations in 2016. Given that the NHS needs to be making the most of their resources, it seems like a terrible waste for surgeons to be sat around waiting, unable to perform their operations for something so trivial as a lack of beds.

Yet what can be done? It is simply not acceptable to just start discharging patients in an effort to free up more space, in the hope that they will manage just fine at home, and with so many elderly patients, this is often not possible anyway. GPs have been told they need to become open 7 days a week, and also need to advertise this fact, or they risk losing their funding, which is a positive start, although there are concerns over whether there will be enough trained staff available for this to be feasible across the country. In addition, much more funding needs to be directed towards caring for the elderly in all communities; allowing them to live comfortably from home should hopefully ease some of the pressure on the beds in the hospitals.

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