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Number of NHS beds at Wales and Local Health Board level for April 2021 to March 2022.

Data presented in this statistical headline are an annual financial yearly average and illustrate yearly changing occupancy rates and bed availability. An underlying monthly data series is also available from the link in the data section below.

The data spans the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has affected NHS services.

Impact of COVID-19 on these statistics

During the pandemic, hospital services in Wales were reorganised due to enhanced infection prevention and control measures, and the need to treat COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients separately.

Subsequently, planned operations were significantly reduced and non-urgent emergency admissions decreased. As a result, hospitals continue to experience slightly lower occupancy rates in 2021-22 than in previous years.

Therefore, caution should be exercised in comparing occupancy rates between 2020-22 and previous years.

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

Main points

  • The latest data for 2021-22 shows NHS bed availability returning to its pre-pandemic level for Wales as a whole. However, the impact of the pandemic can still be seen in the bed occupancy rate, which although higher than 2020-21 is still lower than in the year prior to the pandemic.
  • The average daily number of available beds in 2021-22 was 10,275.6, a decrease of 65 (0.6%) compared to 2020-21.
  • The average daily number of occupied beds in 2021-22 was 8,342, an increase of 1,171.7 (16.3%) compared to 2020-21.
  • The percentage occupancy of NHS beds in 2021-22 was 81.2%. This is an increase of 11.8 percentage points compared to 2020-21.
  • 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 it has generally decreased. However, in the most recent years, this percentage has been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further background

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 Data online (Digital Health and Care Wales).


Datasets and interactive tools


Rhys Strafford

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