SNP attacked over reduction in hospital '¨bed numbers

Hospitals across Scotland have lost more than 8,000 beds since 2003. Picture: Christopher Furlong

The Scottish Government’s health record came under fire yesterday when new figures revealed a dramatic fall in the number of hospital beds and rising numbers of unfilled consultant posts.

Patients’ campaign groups and politicians attacked the SNP administration after official figures revealed that hospitals across Scotland have lost more than 8,000 beds since 2003.
According to the Scottish Government figures produced in an answer to a parliamentary question, there are now 21,028 non-intensive care beds across the country.

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That compares to 29,445 beds 13 years ago, a reduction of almost 30 per cent.
The Scottish Conservatives said while there was a shift in the way people are treated, with many being cared for in non-hospital settings, the drop was still “hugely significant”.

The fall in non-emergency beds was accompanied by an increase in the number of intensive care beds from 700 in 2003 to more than 900 now.

A break-down of the figures revealed the decrease in non-intensive care beds has hit health boards across the country.

The falling number of beds came to light in the answer to a Holyrood question asked by Miles Briggs, the Conservative public health spokesman.

Mr Briggs said: “We know the way people are being treated is changing, with more receiving the care they need outwith hospital settings.

“However, the SNP cannot just hide behind that argument when bed numbers have dropped by nearly a third since 2003. That’s hugely significant.”

Meanwhile pressure was put on Nicola Sturgeon over unfilled consultants posts when Scottish Labour’s Kezia Dugdale challenged her at First Minister’s Questions.

Ms Dugdale quoted figures that showed that the number of posts that were vacant for six months or more had increased from 31.5 in 2011 to 1890.9 since 2011 – a near six-fold increase.

The Scottish Labour leader pointed out that the NHS was spending £400 million on deals with agencies to supply locum doctors.

She said the empty posts and private-sector spending reflected a decade of “mismanagement” of the health service under the SNP.

Ms Dugdale said: “The brutal truth is that our hospitals have to turn to the private sector because they don’t have enough doctors in the first place.”

Ms Sturgeon defended her record in government, arguing that NHS workers were being treated fairly and pointed out that her government had maintained a no compulsory redundancies policy.