Predicted Shortage of Critical Care Hospital BedsOctober 11, 2010
The UK has one of the lowest ratios of critical care beds in the developed world, according to a review published by The Lancet that warns that the need for intensive and high-dependency beds is going to soar.
Doctors say critical beds are normally 80%-85% full, which could mean some people missing out in an emergency.
The review, published in the Lancet medical journal, says the need for specialised hospital care will rise because of the ageing population, as well as increasing in the event of a disaster. The UK has 3.5 beds per 100,000 people, which is at the bottom end of the scale for developed countries. Germany has 24.6 per 100,000 and the US has 20 per 100,000, though not every country defines critical care in the same way.
The paper adds that demographics pose a problem for wealthier nations like the UK, where older people will increasingly be admitted to critical care and recover as medicine and technology improve.
“The combination of an ageing population and fewer young wage earners in developed countries will create a demand for critical care that cannot be fulfilled as it is presently delivered, even if shrinking economies recover,” the authors write.
The shortage of beds will inevitably have an impact on the quality of care and treatment provided.
Suzanne is a Partner and is head of the clinical negligence department.