CONCERNS of Ludlow NHS campaigners about bed shortages in hospitals this winter have been supported by experts in emergency care.

THE NHS in England will need at least 4,000 extra beds to prevent thousands of patients being treated in corridors this winter.

Analysis of NHS figures by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine suggest that in order to keep bed occupancy at a safe level, and keep emergency departments moving, between 4,000 and 6,000 staffed beds will be needed.

“Our number one priority is to put an end to ‘corridor care’ this winter. To do this we will need at least 4,000 extra staffed beds,” said President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson.

“Emergency Departments aim to have most patients treated and back home on the same day. But nearly a third of all patients who go to major Accident and Emergency needed to be admitted to a bed.

“A lack of beds means that many patients have to wait long times in undignified conditions – often on a trolley in a corridor. Last year nearly a third of a million people waited for over 12 hours.

“No patient should have to experience this for even a couple of hours, let alone for over half a day as some do.

“But since Quarter one of 2010/11 we have lost over 15,000 beds from the system.

“Cuts to the bed base must be reversed otherwise we will end up seeing more patients stranded for hours on trolleys in crowded corridors.

“Bed occupancy during winter last year was an average of 93.5 per cent - far higher than the recommended safe level of 85 per cent. This was despite a mild winter, with the lowest number of bed closures due to norovirus in years.

“This summer has been the worst ever in terms of the number of patients waiting – from the decision to admit them, and not time of arrival – over 12 hours for a bed.

“This is a difficult position to be going into winter.”