Letter: Strains on care of patients as hospitals cut back beds

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Sir: All over the country hospitals are trying to reduce the number of beds and to use those remaining more efficiently. Virginia Bottomley's prediction, reported in yesterday's Independent, that hospital beds will be reduced by 40 per cent by the year 2002 may be accurate, but I wonder if she has taken the following factors into account.

Most hospitals have experienced a 20 to 30 per cent increase in emergency admissions over the past year or so. The expected summer decrease in these admissions has not occurred. The reason for this is not apparent.

The instrumentation needed for laparoscopic (or any other form of hi-tech) surgery is expensive and delicate. Thus capital funds are needed to buy the intruments before the advantages can be realised, revenue required to buy disposable instruments, and further capital will be needed to replace outdated or worn-out equipment.

The number of patients that can benefit from shorter stay or day case surgery is limited to the relatively fit, and an increasingly aged population often living alone may further reduce the pool of suitable patients. Moreover, a proper after- care service needs to be set up in the community before the early discharge programme is begun.

Yours sincerely,

ANDREW JOHNSON

Haskayne,

Lancashire

24 June

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