13.04.18

Over 1,400 empty beds in ‘ghost wards’ branded a scandal by Labour

The equivalent of two hospitals are closed across the UK, recent statistics have revealed.

A Freedom of Information request by Labour shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, has revealed that there are over 1,400 empty hospital beds across 82 so-called ‘ghost wards.’

Discussing the findings, Ashworth told the Guardian: “Given Tory ministers have allowed 14,500 beds to be cut from the NHS in the past eight years, to now learn that wards and beds have been left empty and unused is a scandal.”

These figures are based on the most recent statistics, dating back to September 2017, and follow yesterday’s revelation that the NHS has not met its 18-week elective treatment target for two years – while more patients than ever are waiting for more than four hours in A&E.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “These findings will not surprise any clinical staff in the NHS.

“It reflects issues around staffing hospitals safely.”

He told the paper that with staff being the biggest cost, years of efficiency savings have meant that many hospitals will have taken the opportunity to shut clinical areas if they can.

However, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson called the findings “misleading.”

They said: “It is misleading to say hospital beds are being mothballed – trusts control the number of beds to meet demand and that’s why they were able to open 3,000 more at peak periods this winter.”

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