Intended for healthcare professionals


Beds in the NHS

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 19 February 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:461

The National Bed Inquiry exposes contradictions in government policy

  1. A M Pollock, professor (,
  2. M G Dunnigan, senior research fellow
  1. Policy and Health Services Research Unit, School of Public Policy, University College London, London WC1H 9EZ
  2. Department of Human Nutrition, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G31 2ER

    News p 463

    January was a tough month for British health ministers, as a flu epidemic put the inadequacies of the NHS on the front page of most newspapers, but then it's been a tough two decades for patients and staff in the NHS. The political remedy for the chronic underfunding of the NHS has been perpetual revolution through reorganisation. Recent acute hospital and NHS service reconfigurations around Britain show how management and political reputations have been staked on exploiting the apparently bottomless pit of clinical productivity to fund investment. But judging by rising waiting lists, growing patient dissatisfaction, and low morale among staff, modernisation appears to be a recipe for reducing capacity and loss of service. A government inquiry has now provided the hard data to confirm this impression

    The National Bed Inquiry, commissioned in 1998 by the Secretary of State for Health to test the hypothesis that bed closures had gone too far, was finally published last week in the form of a consultation document and supporting analysis.1 2 The consultation document, Shaping the future NHS: long term planning for hospital and related services, shows not only that is there is little scope for productivity gains but also that there is no spare capacity in the NHS.1 The …

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