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National Health Service (Beds)

Volume 32: debated on Thursday 18 November 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give details of the average daily number of National Health Service beds occupied in the United Kingdom for each of the years 1960, 1970, 1980, and at the latest date available; and if he will show, in each case, the ratio of staff to each occupied bed.

The average daily number of occupied NHS beds in the United Kingdom for these years and the ratio of hospital medical, dental, nursing and midwifery staff to such beds, were as follows:

Average daily number of occupied beds (thousands)478441370
Ratio of hospital, medical, dental nursing and midwifery staff per 1,000 occupied beds*552·0753·51,253.4

* These ratios are based on staffing figures which are of whole-time equivalent staff for 1970 and 1980; but since neither whole-time equivalent nor headcount figures are consistently available for all the relevant staff groups in 1960 the figures used in calculating the ratios for these years are a mixture of whole-time equivalents and headcount as available. The figures for all three years include locums and agency staff but exclude hospital practitioners, clinical assistants and general medical practitioners participating in hospital staff funds.

The staff figures used are confined to hospital medical, dental, nursing and midwifery staff because overall NHS staff figures after 1974 include community health staff but before 1974 were mainly for hospital services. Only hospital medical, dental, nursing and midwifery staff figures are available on a comparable basis before and after 1974.

Ratios of staff to occupied or available beds are not an indicator of health authority staff productivity. There has been a steady increase in the number of patients treated per bed, including day patients and day cases, and the number of staff required is determined more by the number of patients treated and the amount of treatment and care they receive than by the number of beds.

No figures for occupied beds are yet available for any year after 1980.