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Early patient discharge to put £500m a year into Darling's coffers

By Nigel Praities

Many more complex cases will be managed by GPs in the community under plans to slash the amount of time patients spend in hospital announced in the Budget today.

The Chancellor announced plans for a £10.5bn cut in Department of Health spending, including a saving of £500m per year by reducing average length of stay in hospital.

The Treasury claims this will reduce the waste of ‘valuable hospital bed space', alongside improving patient experience and clinical outcomes, although GPs are warning hospitals in some areas are already ‘in crisis'.

The cuts come after Pulse revealed the NHS had been systematically cutting the number of acute beds in trusts, with a 10% drop in just three years.

These latest cuts are billed as the DH ‘contribution' to balancing the country's books, but GP leaders in Wales have already warned NHS cuts in hospital capacity were bringing the NHS to breaking point.

Dr Stefan Coghlan, chairman of the BMA's Welsh Consultants Committee, said: ‘A worrying combination of unprecedented emergency admissions, more planned surgery to meet access 2009 targets and so called efficiency savings with pressure to balance the books by the end of the financial year has resulted in unacceptable bed pressures.

‘NHS managers have been having crisis meetings on a daily basis about where to put patients. We seem to be getting to a point where it's a case of any bed will do,' he said.

Figures released by BMA Wales show the number of NHS beds in Wales fell by nearly two thousand from 1997/98 to 2007/08.

Emptying beds faster is a major plank of Chancellor's strategy for DH savings Emptying beds faster major plank of Chancellor's strategy of DH savings

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