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Number of NHS beds at Wales and Local Health Board level for April 2020 to March 2021.

Data presented in this statistical release are an annual average and illustrate yearly changing occupancy rates and bed availability. Therefore, these data won’t reflect changing levels of activity throughout the year.

This data covers a time period during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has affected NHS services.

During the pandemic, hospital services in Wales were reorganised due to enhanced infection prevention and control measures, and the need to treat COVID and non-COVID patients separately. Subsequently, planned operations were significantly reduced and non-urgent emergency admissions decreased. As a result, hospitals experienced lower occupancy rates in 2020-21 than in previous years.Therefore, caution should be exercised in comparing occupancy rates between 2020-21 and previous years.

The Digital Health and Care Wales (DHCW) daily COVID-19 SITREP is the main data source for COVID-19 hospitalisation figures, with data published daily by Welsh Government (StatsWales). The data presented in this statistical release is based on a different source, different definitions and different hospital types. Therefore comparisons should not be made between these two collections.

Main points

  • The average daily number of available beds in 2020-21 was 10,340.4, a decrease of 224 (2.1%) compared to 2019-20.
  • The average daily number of occupied beds in 2020-21 was 7,170.2, a decrease of 1,863.1 (20.6%) compared to 2019-20.
  • The percentage occupancy of NHS beds in 2020-21 was 69.3%. This is a decrease of 16.2 percentage points compared to 2019-20.
  • The lower number of average daily occupied beds and percentage occupancy in 2020-21 reflects the lower levels of scheduled care activity as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long term change

Since the current data collection began in 1996-97, both the average number of daily occupied beds and available beds have been decreasing. The percentage occupancy of beds increased until 2016-17, after which there has been a year on year decrease.

Note that the long term strategy for healthcare in Wales is to provide care closer to home by increasing community and GP services. More detail on this can be found in 'A healthier Wales: the long term plan for health and social care'.

Advances in healthcare technology have also resulted in shorter lengths of stay and more day surgery. Data on average length of stay is available from PEDW online (Digital Health and Care Wales).


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Rhys Strafford

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