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30
Mar

Prompt action needed to avoid future NHS beds crisis


A new data briefing by Marie Curie reports that over 8,000 additional hospital beds across Britain could be needed by 2041 if emergency admissions of people in their last year of life continue at the average of the last four years. The increased cost of this to the NHS, assuming 2% annual inflation, would be a staggering £2,488m.*

 

To produce this data briefing Marie Curie Cancer Care analysed data from NHS Scotland, NHS Wales and NHS Digital and projected the trends against the Office for National Statistics (ONS) projections for deaths over the next 25 years. 

 

In 2016 there were over 1.6 million emergency admissions for people in the last year of their life, amounting to around 11 million days in hospital, costing the NHS £2.5 billion. While these sorts of emergency admissions are sometimes necessary, they can often be avoided entirely if adequate care in the community is provided.

 

The data briefing analyses the trends in each of the three nations independently and Britain overall. It then projects figures of beds needed and cost to the NHS based on three scenarios: a continuation of the recent trend; falling 10% below the identified trend; and achieving only the average of the last five years, rather than assuming a trend.

 

The implications for England are significantly worse than those for Wales and Scotland. The worst case scenario sees England alone needing 7,100 of the extra beds by 2041, at a cost increase to the NHS of £2,051m. The data briefing states that "the scale of the projected rise in absolute numbers of deaths in England means that current measures to reduce average days in hospital will be overtaken by the pace of demographic change, as well as the rise in average number of admissions."

 

The briefing warns that it is difficult to reach any conclusion that does not require extra beds, even with significant and sustained investment in community services. It further states that planning for these beds needs to begin now, but adds: "this is not currently happening, so it is unclear how the government is proposing to address these issues."

 

* This is the worst case scenario for Britain, but even the best case scenario would required an addition 3,683 beds at a cost increase of £1,891m.

 

The full data briefing may be downloaded from Marie Curie’s website – click here to go to the site.

 

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