Hospital bed occupancy
High levels of hospital bed occupancy are an important indicator of a health system under pressure. Hospitals cannot operate at 100% occupancy, as spare bed capacity is needed to accommodate for variations in demand and ensure that patients can flow through the system. Demand for hospital beds peaks at different times of the day, week and year. There must be a sufficient number of beds to accommodate for these peaks.
A lack of available beds can have widespread consequences in a health system. Delays in emergency departments increase, patients are placed on clinically inappropriate wards, there is an increased rate of hospital acquired infections, and pressure on staff to free up beds could pose a risk to patient safety. Bed availability is also closely linked to staffing, as beds cannot be safely filled without appropriate staffing levels.
Quarterly bed availability and occupancy data has been collected since 1987/88 and has remained the same apart from slight changes in 1996/97.
For wards open overnight an occupied bed day is defined as one which is occupied at midnight on the day in question. For wards open day only an occupied bed-day is defined as a bed in which at least one day case has taken place during the day. Bed occupancy can't be more than 100%.
For more information, please see NHS England's Bed Availability and Occupancy Guidance.