Up to 6,000 extra hospital beds urgently needed to avoid ‘unsafe corridor care’ this winter

Since 2012 the NHS has lost over 15,000 beds.

Laura Townsend
31 October 2019
Hospital ward

Up to 6,000 extra beds are urgently needed to avoid the “undignified conditions” of being treated on a corridor.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has warned that “between 4,000 and 6,000 staffed beds” will be needed in order to ensure patients avoid the “undignified conditions” of being treated on a corridor.


An analysis of official NHS figures by the RCEM suggest reveals that last year, despite a mild winter, bed occupancy rates were 93.5% – far higher than the recommended safe level of 85%.

According to the College, since 2012 the NHS has lost over 15,000 beds and last year nearly a third of a million people waited for over 12 hours on trolleys in A&E.

The college predicts that after the “worst ever” summer in terms of the number of patients waiting for beds, winter can only get worse without immediate action.

An impending crisis.

In a statement warning of the impending crisis the President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson, said: “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.”


“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.”

“This is a difficult position to be going into winter in. Without more beds, with appropriate nursing staffing, we fear we may be in for another record-breaking winter.”

“Performance against the four-hour standard at large A&Es was just 77% last month and declining performance is linked to declining bed numbers.”

“The head of the NHS has also said we need more beds this winter. For the sake of our patients we must find a way to make it happen.”


Treating patients on trolley is ‘unsafe’.

Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing’s Director for England, warns that treating patient on trolleys is “unsafe’.

She said; “cuts to beds, a failure to replace capacity outside of hospitals and a broken social care system have left more and more patients with little option but to go where the lights are on. A chronic shortage of nurses in the community has made keeping people well and out of hospital more difficult, too.

“More beds will be needed this winter, but there also needs to be the nurses there to staff them. Thanks to poor decisions and the failure to invest in the nursing workforce the government is presiding over record vacancies.

“With an election around the corner, we need whoever comes into power next to promise to reverse the damage, put at least £1bn into nursing education and change the law so that it is clear who is responsible for making sure there are enough nurses to safely staff beds.’”

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