Despite the coronavirus outbreak, NHS hospital beds in the UK are four times emptier than normal and a newly built hospital in the north-east of England may now never be used.

“Tens of thousands of NHS hospital beds remain unoccupied amid the coronavirus crisis — about four times the normal number — due to huge ongoing efforts to free up space, and a slowdown in admissions from other causes,” reports HSJ.

“Figures from the national NHS operational dashboard, seen by HSJ, show that 40.9 per cent of NHS general acute beds were unoccupied as of the weekend — 37,500 of the total 91,600 relevant beds recorded in the data. That is 4,500 more than the 33,000 the NHS said had been freed up on 27 March, and nearly four times the normal amount of free acute beds at this time of year.”

One of the reasons for the empty hospital beds is that people who would normally go to hospital for treatment are avoiding doing so because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experts have warned that this could cause more serious illnesses and deaths in the long term.

Another reason is that a lot of patients were discharged last month early in preparation for the coronavirus surge.

Meanwhile, NHS bosses have said that a new Nightingale Hospital built in Tyne and Wear to deal with extra coronavirus patients may now never be needed.

“I don’t think we will need to open,” said Martin Wilson, chief operating officer for Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The empty hospital beds will prompt questions as to when the lockdown in the UK will end given that one of the core reasons for imposing it in the first place was to buy time in order to prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed with patients.

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