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Research Article

Is London overbedded?

BMJ 1993; 306 doi: (Published 10 April 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;306:979
  1. B Jarman
  1. Department of General Practice, St Mary's Hospital Medical School, Lisson Grove Health Centre, London.


    OBJECTIVE--To examine whether there are too many hospital beds in London. DESIGN--Analysis of data from the Hospital In-Patient Enquiry, Mental Health Enquiry, health service indicators, and Emergency Bed Service. SETTING--England, London, and inner London. RESULTS--Hospital admission rates for acute plus geriatric services for London residents were very similar to the national values in all age groups. In the special case considered in the Tomlinson report--acute services in inner London--the admission rate was 22% above the value for England. However, the admission rate of inner deprived Londoners was 9% below that of comparable areas outside London. For psychiatry, admission rates in London roughly equalled those in comparable areas. When special health authorities were excluded, in 1990-1 there were 4% more acute plus geriatric beds available per resident in London than in England. Bed provision has been reduced more rapidly in London than nationally. Extrapolating the trend of bed closures forward indicates that beds (all and acute) per resident in London are now at about the national average. Data from the Emergency Bed Service indicate that the pressure on available hospital beds in London has been increasing since 1985. CONCLUSIONS--Data regarding bed provision and utilisation for all specialties by London residents do not provide a case for reducing the total hospital bed stock in London at a rate faster than elsewhere. Bed closures should take account of London's relatively poorer social and primary health care circumstances, longer hospital waiting lists, poorer provision of residential homes, and evidence from the Emergency Bed Service of increasing pressure on beds. Higher average costs in London, some unavoidable, are forcing hospital beds to be closed at a faster rate in London than nationally.