Intensive care units lose 20% of beds

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The Independent Online
Nearly 20 per cent of intensive care beds in major cities across the country have been closed because of lack of funding or unavailability of specialist nurses according to a survey, writes Celia Hall. The snap shot picture of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow was conducted by intensive care consultants who have become increasingly concerned about emergency provision for critically ill patients.

As a result of the survey the Department of Health announced that it was seeking urgent reports from health authorities on "the proper level of intensive care in their areas".

Dr David Bennett, director of the Intensive Care Unit at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London, and colleagues were so concerned that theyconducted a first survey of London hospitals in mid-January. On the day in question they found there were only 8-10 beds empty in London - the picture in 35 hospitals inside the M25.

"There were 240 patients in ITU beds and 30 to 40 were closed because of funding or staff problems," Dr Bennett said. "We then widened our investigation. Ten days ago we looked at other cities as well, a total of 56 hospitals. We found that 452 beds could have been available.

``On the day there were 376 beds open and 340 patients were in them. That is an occupancy of about 86 per cent and that is much too high..."