NHS faces winter bed shortage, says new boss

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Health authorities will face a bed shortage this winter that will force some to rely on private hospitals, the new chief executive of the National Health Service said yesterday.

Health authorities will face a bed shortage this winter that will force some to rely on private hospitals, the new chief executive of the National Health Service said yesterday.

Nigel Crisp, who starts his job on Wednesday, said: "This winter, we've got more capacity than last year, more beds and more nurses... but we will undoubtedly have bits of the service come under real pressure.

"It is sensible and practical for us to use the private sector where that will take a bit of pressure off the system." He said every health authority had been asked to produce a comprehensive plan for the winter.

The British Medical Association supported his concern, particularly in the event of a flu epidemic, saying there was "very little slack" in the system.

But Dr Liam Fox, the Tory health spokesman, accused Mr Crisp of "getting his excuses in early" on behalf of government ministers.

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