A survey from a leading newspaper has indicated that beds for elderly patients are being cut back as the NHS faces efficiency savings of £20 billion by 2015.
The Daily Telegraph surveyed 172 NHS Trusts about the number of beds they had closed since April 2010.
Of the 39 NHS Trusts that responded to the survey, 469 beds have been cut. Of these, 259 were specifically beds for the elderly.
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Trust reduced its number of elderly care beds by 69 in 2010/11, transferring some of them to specialist wards.
Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust also cut its number of elderly beds, by 16 per cent from 454 to 380.
According to the latest Department of Health figures, just 17% of the 121,000 beds in NHS hospitals are for the elderly.
Elderly care beds are estimated to cost twice as much as general medical beds, because they are designed to meet the extra needs of older patients, including getting washed and dressed and help with meals.
Dr Ian Donald, policy chair at the British Geriatrics Society and consultant geriatrician at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust, said hospital managers were targeting elderly beds for cuts because they were more expensive.
"Hospitals are desperate to cut costs. We are coming under pressure to discharge people or shift people elsewhere perhaps earlier than might be good for them,” he said.
“The main reason is probably financial; they see elderly care beds are expensive to run and associate it with stays of a couple of weeks rather than a 50-year-old in for three days."
Staffing levels on elderly wards also vary between hospitals according to Dr Foster. South Tyneside District Hospital has the worst staff to bed ratio, with 59 elderly care beds looked after by two nurses and four healthcare assistants.
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