Hospital Dr News

Bed crisis: “Surgeons left kicking their heels, waiting for beds to become available”

Surgeons are “kicking their heels” because of delays to operations caused by a shortage of beds in acute hospitals.

Dr Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, and Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, have written a joint letter saying there’s a “shocking waste” of surgeons’ time due to the lack of social care for elderly patients outside hospitals.

In a joint letter to the Sunday Times, they said: “Because of bed shortages, staff including surgeons are now sometimes left kicking their heels, waiting for beds to become available so they can operate.

“Too often managers, nurses and doctors waste time trying to find somewhere to look after patients. At a time when the NHS is being told to make the most of its resources, this is a shocking waste.”

Bed occupancy should not exceed 85% for safety reasons but overnight inpatient beds were routinely 89% occupied, they said.

“This is partly because there is not enough social care capacity to look after our frail older patients in the community, so increasingly they cannot be discharged from hospital,” they added.

Last week, following an investigation by the BBC, health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, admitted performance in elements of the NHS was “completely unacceptable”. His comments came after figures emerged showing that numbers of A&E patients seen within the target of four hours fell to a record low of 86% in December.

The number of operations cancelled by the NHS in England also hit a 15-year high last year.

A total of 82,730 planned operations were cancelled at the last minute for non-clinical reasons – a third higher than in 2010.

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