Three of five hospitals in and around Birmingham and beyond were running above safe occupancy levels in the period running up to the New Year, figures analysed for BirminghamWorld show.
The safe occupancy level is 85%, beyond which safety and efficiency are at risk, according to the British Medical Association.
Between December 26 and January 1, three of the hospitals in the region were dangerously busy. Meanwhile, in England, nine out of 10 hospitals were running dangerously busy during the same period the study by BirminghamWorld’s sister title NationalWorld has shown.
During that period the average numbe of beds totalled 4,067 across University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation, The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust.
Of those, 3817 beds were occupied meaning more than 93% average number of beds were occupied.
How full is my local hospital?
- University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust - 95.6%
- Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust - 93.7%
- Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust - 76.7%
- The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust - 63.1%
- Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust - 98.3%
To check the full list see our searchable table below. Click here if you can’t see the table.
Bed occupancy rates vary across England’s hospitals. Both George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in the Midlands and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust in the North West were found to be at full occupancy last week, while Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust were the only trusts to fall below 50% occupancy. You can find out how busy your local hospital was last week using the searchable table below.
The figures come as the NHS faces one of its most challenging winters yet, with doctors warning that the entire health and social care system is overstretched. Health secretary, Steve Barclay, blamed high levels of flu, Covid and fears of Strep-A for the ongoing crisis.
Commenting on NationalWorld’s analysis, Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said that “no health system should be running their hospitals this hot”.
“It is almost certain that levels of overcrowding in NHS hospitals in England are even worse than the published data suggests due to the time of day when it is recorded,” he said. “The lack of manoeuvre and available beds is leading to dangerously busy and difficult conditions in accident and emergency departments, waiting rooms and corridors.”
He added that for years before the pandemic the NHS was “forced to push the boundaries of what is effective and safe occupancy rates”, adding that overcrowded hospitals increase risks to patients and link to higher rates of mortality.
“Focusing investment on propping up day-to-day hospital care, while neglecting investment in buildings and equipment as well as important care services outside of hospital will not help to bring these levels of bed occupancy down any time soon,” he said.
What has the government said about the high number of bed occupancy?
Despite there being record numbers of total nurses, doctors and hospital and communication health service staff, the healthcare system is struggling.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures the NHS is facing following the impact of the pandemic and are working tirelessly to ensure people get the care they need, backed by up to £14.1 billion additional funding for health and social care over the next two years.
“This includes investing an additional £500 million to speed up the safe discharge of patients from hospital, creating the equivalent of 7,000 more beds nationally and establishing 24/7 data driven system control centres in every local area to manage demand and capacity.”
“There are record numbers of nurses and doctors working in the NHS – with almost 4,700 more doctors and over 10,500 more nurses compared to October 2021.”