§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what has been the effect of the reduction of 6 per cent. in the number of hospital beds in the National Health Service since 1969 on the capacity of the National Health Service to deal with hospital cases.
§ Mr. John Patten
The average daily number of available beds in the National Health Service in England fell by 19 per cent. between 1969 and 1982. This has not reduced the capacity of the service to treat patients, and the number treated as hospital in-patients increased by 15 per cent. in the same period. The reasons for the fall in bed numbers include relocation of services, changes in the pattern of morbidity (eg the decline in infectious diseases and tuberculosis), and the shift to community care for psychiatric and elderly patients. The effect of this process is to release resources for use elsewhere. Changes in medical practice, by reducing the time patients stay in hospital, have made it possible to use the remaining beds more intensively.