NHS hospital bed numbers: past, present, future

Numbers of hospital beds have halved over the past 30 years, from around 299,000 to 142,000 for general and acute, mental illness, learning disability, maternity and day-only beds.

This briefing aims to place the debate about hospital beds in a wider context by:

  • presenting data on hospital beds for England over a 30-year period and, where possible, data on other categories of beds used in health care 
  • comparing the NHS’s bed supply with other EU-15 countries 
  • exploring the drivers underpinning changes observed in hospital bed numbers
  • considering whether STPs’ proposed bed reductions are realistic.