Health secretary Alan Milburn has ordered the NHS to “go for growth” to increase the number of beds.
Government figures show deductions in the number of NHS beds have slowed almost to a halt following decades of large cuts. For the past 10 years, the NHS has lost an average of 2, 075 acute beds each year.
The NHS Plan sets out a projected increase in NHS general and acute beds of 2,100. Three out of eight English NHS regions – Trent, South West and North West – increased the number of general and acute NHS beds in the last year.
This month the government will also issue guidance which will set out a model for calculating the necessary number of hospital and other NHS beds needed in each area per head of population.
Meanwhile, waiting lists have fallen again – by 7,669 during July. There are now 117,738 fewer patients waiting for an operation than there were in March 1997.
Health secretary Alan Milburn said: “The prevailing NHS culture of bed reductions needs to be replaced by one which results in increased numbers of the right beds in the right places.
“The NHS Plan sets out how this expansion in services will be achieved.”