Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hospital Acquired Infections data show that we must keep hospital beds

This week disappointing figures have come out for Hospital Acquired Infections. The most infamous, MRSA, has slightly improved but overall figures for hospital acquired infections have got slightly worse.

This demonstrates that one thing which frequently happens when hospitals are rebuilt or reconfigured - that the NHS persuades itself that it can manage with fewer beds - must be resisted.

There are good reasons for changing the pattern of treatment to reflect changing needs and techniques, and in the long term these may not require as many hospital beds, but it is fatally easy to make overoptimistic estimates of the extent to which equal or better service can be provided with fewer beds.

If a hospital is over-full, it means difficulty finding beds for patients, which can mean they are moved around between wards, and that harrassed and over-worked staff may not have time to fully clean beds between each patient - which means more people actually catch an illness while in hospital.

The target for bed occupancy which is generally regarded as good clinical practice is that not more than 80% of the beds in a hospital should be occupied at any one time.

Until bed occupancy rates are consistently below 80%, any proposal to reduce the number of hospital beds in Cumbria, whether in community hospitals like Millom and Keswick, or at District General Hospitals like the West Cumberland, must be resisted.


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