Report and national coverage on critical care bed capacity

7 March 2018

The Faculty has today published a short research survey into critical care bed capacity.  The full report is available here. 

We are pleased that the Guardian have produced a detailed article on its important findings.

The key messages:

  • 3/5 of units do not have a full critical care nursing complement.

  • Of those affected, the vast majority considered that bed capacity was inevitably impacted leading to cancelled operations. Quality of care and even patient safety might be impacted.

  • 2/5 of units have to close beds due to staffing shortages on at least a weekly basis. Only 14% of units did not have to close beds.

  • 4/5 of units had to transfer patients due to lack of beds. With 21% units doing this at least monthly.

  • The bed fill rate for Northern Ireland and Wales was estimated to be at least 95%. Scotland was 84%. NHS England data put the critical care bed capacity rate at 87%, but a number of units responded to express doubt that the rate entered for their Trusts was a true reflection of their real capacity.

It is also worth noting that the figure in the article given by the Department of Health and Social Care that there are 900 more ICM doctors since May 2010 is sadly not correct.  We can ascertain this very easily via both our own membership statistics and the data we have on both new training posts and consultant interview appointments.  We presume that this figure originates from how poorly ICM doctors were recorded previously in NHS data.  As many ICM doctors also dual specialise in another specialty (often anaesthesia) most ICM doctors were 'lost' within the other specialty's data.  This goes to demonstrate how much the Faculty and the DHSC and relevant bodies could achieve if we work together, including by developing appropriate data resources.  Critical Futures: A Report on the First Wave Survey, serves as a helpful summary of recommendations that can help take the specialty forward.

Dr Carl Waldmann, Dean of the Faculty, said:

“The Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine recommends that the Departments of Health and each Health Board and Trust make modelling of critical care need and resources an urgent priority.”