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Feature Data Briefing

The hospital bed: on its way out?

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 12 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1563

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. John Appleby, chief economist
  1. 1 King’s Fund, London, UK
  1. j.appleby{at}

John Appleby examines trends in the number of hospital beds and wonders how low we can go

In 1967 the King Edward’s Hospital Fund for London, now known as the King’s Fund, published a new specification for the design of a “hospital bedstead.”1 This had followed an evaluation of various bed designs in collaboration with Bruce Archer, an engineering designer at London’s Royal College of Art.2 As Lawrence notes, the evaluation was intensive and “relied on extensive data collection, mathematical modelling of solutions, and field trials . . . 1000 hospitals completed a televisual survey on beds, and . . . 20 prototype beds were installed for three months at Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield. Trained observers recorded all bed-related activities from 0600 h to 2200 h daily.” The project cost £35 000—over £500 000 (€580 000; $750 000) at today’s prices.3 Over time the King’s Fund bed came to replace the many hundreds of different bed …

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