More beds needed as waiting list hits 5.72 million

MORE hospital beds and staff are urgently needed says the Royal College of Surgeons of England as latest NHS performance data reveals that there were 5.72 million people in England on the NHS waiting list in August 2021.

This is the highest number since records began, with 9,754 patients having waited more than two years for hospital treatment. The longest waits were for trauma and orthopaedic treatment such as hip and knee replacements, followed by general surgery and ear nose and throat treatment.

The College reports these statistics are against a backdrop of reduced bed numbers, with NHS England figures showing the number of general and acute hospital beds having fallen from 110,568 in 2010/11 to 96,998 in 2021/22.

Miss Fiona Myint, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: "When we said we were re-starting planned surgery, there was a sigh of relief from patients waiting for their operation. But the reality is that the number of planned operations we can undertake is still limited by having insufficient intensive care beds to care for patients after surgery. We are still fighting COVID and many of the sickest patients end up in intensive care, which has an impact on the operations we can do.

"The reality is that we require more staff and hospital beds to bring down the elective waiting list. This includes nurses and operating department assistants, who are part of the team in the operating theatre. We must also look at how we can retain the staff we have. We need to improve morale in the NHS after the past two years which have been very tough."

The RCS England New Deal for Surgery report calls on the government to adopt a long-term aim to increase the number of hospital beds from 2.5 to 4.7 per 1,000 people and also to increase the number of doctors (including anaesthetists and surgeons) from 2.8 to 3.5 per 1,000 population.

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