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Hospital Care

NHS National Services Scotland ISD Scotland & NHS National Services Scotland


In order to provide an effective, safe and efficient service to patients, hospitals must balance the provision of staffed beds against anticipated demand. Historically, the total number of beds has been reducing in line with evolving models of healthcare provision which aim to reduce the frequency and duration of hospital admissions and improve the integration of health and social care services. This strategy aims to improve outcomes for patients and reduce the likelihood of future hospital admissions.

Beds Definitions

There are a number of different beds definitions used in NHSScotland so it is important to ensure that the correct definition is used when analysing data. The number of available beds can increase and decrease depending on several factors such as demand and seasonality (more beds in specific specialties during winter, for example). Given that the numbers of beds in a hospital do vary over time, we have established that the best denominator for the percentage occupancy is 'available staffed beds' rather than 'bed complement' which does not reflect the fluid nature of hospital beds. This approach has been agreed between ISD, the Scottish Government and the NHS Boards.

The definitions for percentage occupancy and available staffed beds are detailed below.

Percentage Occupancy

Percentage occupancy is the percentage of available staffed beds occupied by inpatients within a specialty/significant facility over any period of time. Derived as follows:

Percentage occupancy = (Occupied bed days /Available staffed bed days)*100

Available Staffed Beds

Count of bed days available to a specialty/significant facility over a fixed period of time. Derived as follows:

Available staffed bed days = Allocated bed days + Borrowed bed days - Lent bed days + Temporary bed days

Available Beds by Specialty & NHS Board of Treatment

Annual Statistics

Information presented covers financial years 2006/07 to 2015/16, and provides details on average available staffed beds and occupancy rates by specialty, at Scotland level and by NHS Board of treatment and hospital.

Annual Trends in Available Beds by Health Board of Treatment and Hospital Download Excel file [2.4Mb]

Please note, in order to view these files, your macro security settings will need to be set to medium. To change macro security settings using Tools, Macro, Security - set security level to Medium and re-open the report.

Quarterly Statistics

Information is presented for the quarters ending December 2011 to December 2016 and provides details of the average number of available staffed beds and occupancy rates, by specialty at Scotland level and by NHS Board of treatment.

Quarterly Statistics showing Available Beds by Speciality and NHS Board of TreatmentDownload Excel file [1.3Mb]

Please note, in order to view these files, your macro security settings will need to be set to medium. To change macro security settings using Tools, Macro, Security - set security level to Medium and re-open the report


NHS Argyll & Clyde ceased to exist at 1st April 2006. NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and NHS Highland board areas were revised to include Argyll & Clyde. Data is shown for these new boards from 2007, and for the previous years by mapping Argyll & Clyde data to include with Greater Glasgow and Highland data.

The Scottish Health Service Costs publication (known as the Costs Book) also contains data on average staffed beds by hospital - Costs Reference Information (in the Hospital Profiles section)

Caution should be taken when comparing Scottish beds data with information from the rest of the UK as there are likely to be key differences in analysis methodologies and data collection processes. The Office of National Statistics United Kingdom Health Statistics 2010 publication provides a single point of reference for the comparison of key figures between the four constituent countries of the UK. Hospital bed statistics can be found within chapter 8. Whilst the four UK countries worked collaboratively to maximise the comparability of the figures, it is important to note that differences between the countries remain in the way that data measures are collected and classified, and because of differences between countries in the organisation of health and social services. The report includes the details of these differences where relevant.

For specific beds information for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, please refer to the following links:

The Department of Health (DoH) publish statistics on bed use in the NHS in England:

The Welsh Government produce statistics on NHS beds and their use

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPSNI) bed use statistics on their website:

© ISD Scotland 2010
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