The number of NHS beds in hospitals across the country has fallen by half in the last 30 years, according to a new study. In other concerning NHS news, nurses have told the Royal College of Nursing that patients are dying alone on hospital wards because staff do not have enough time to care for them.
Meanwhile, new research in America has shown that a third of older people living in the US are now taking pills to help them sleep.
NHS Beds hit new low
We begin this week’s news round-up with a new study, which has revealed the number of NHS beds has fallen by half in the last 30 years. The new study, released by The King’s Fund, found that hospitals in England have the least beds for their population compared with any other country in the European Union, with just 2.3 per 1,000 people, compared with an EU average of 3.7.
Overall, the number of NHS beds has dropped from 299,000 to 142,000 since 1987. During the same time, the population has risen 16% and the number of pensioners has risen by a third.
Worryingly there are plans to reduce the number of NHS beds even further. Many of the new proposals included in the “sustainability and transformation plans” would include bed cuts. For example, 530 beds would be lost in Derbyshire, with 450 NHS beds going in South West London.
The report’s author, Helen McKenna, told The Telegraph:
“With many hospitals already stretched to breaking point, reductions on the scale we know have been proposed in some areas are neither desirable not achievable.”
Earlier this year, Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS said plans with “significant” bed closures will only be allowed to go ahead via public consultation and if they can demonstrate the beds are not needed.
People dying alone in hospital
There’s more concerning news coming from the NHS this week, with nurses revealing that some patients are dying alone on hospital wards because staff do not have enough time to care for them.
These findings have come from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) after they quizzed some nurses about their last shift. It was also said that due to mounting pressure on NHS staff, medicines are being given late which is causing discomfort and pain for patients.
The nurses who took part revealed that they would end up being “parachuted” into departments they were not familiar with to provide emergency cover at the very last minute. On such incident saw a cardiac nurse drafted into a stroke unit. Many nurses were also quoted as leaving their shift in tears due to the demands on them.
Other problems highlighted by the RCN include:
– Patients not being moved. This can cause bed sores.
– Patients being left in corridors because there were no beds left.
– Child patients being left without food as staff priortised treatment.
– Medicines for diabetes, Parkinson’s and sepsis not being given on time.
The RCN said more than a third of those who took part in the online survey in May reported having to leave elements of patient care undone because of a lack of time, while two-thirds worked extra time unpaid.
Americans turning to sleeping pills
has revealed that a third of older people in the US now take pills to help them sleep. The US National Poll on Healthy Aging spoke to more than 1000 people aged between 65 and 80, and found that 14% regularly take prescription sleep medication, prescription pan medication and over-the-counter sleep aid or herbal supplements.
Nearly half of those who took part in the survey said they they struggle falling asleep at least one night a week, with 15% admitting that they have problems getting to sleep three or more nights a week.
This report comes after a warning by sleep scientist, Professor Matthew Walker, that a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic” was causing a host of potentially fatal conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease,strokes and Alzheimer’s.
Dr Preeti Malani of Michigan University, who led the new survey, said:
“Although sleep problems can happen at any age and for many reasons, they can’t be cured by taking a pill, either prescription, over-the-counter or herbal – no matter what the ads on TV say. Some of these medications [prescription or non-prescription] can create big concerns for older adults: from falls and memory issues, to confusion and constipation.”
Prof. Malani went on to explain that the first step for anybody with sleep issues to be to speak to their doctor.