The SCI service in England provides care for patients from 8 SCI centres. A recent view by the NHS recommended an additional 54 beds for them, highlighting their capability to cope. To further exacerbate the problem, general medical patients are occupying SCI centre beds because of winter capacity pressures within the host NHS trusts.

FOI requests

In March of this year the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) made a number of Freedom of Information requests to the 8 NHS Trusts that run the SCI centres, concerning the period between March 2017 and February 2018. They discovered that:

  • 2 centres lost more than 1,000 bed days over the period due to the reallocation of beds.
  • Another centre lost 500 over the same period
  • Only 3 of the centres made sure that vulnerable SCI patients were not in beds next to potentially dangerous general medical patients
  • All the 8 centres had significant admissions waiting lists during this period
  • One centre gave inaccurate data, whilst another claimed to be unable to answer a question that all the other 7 had.

It was apparent that the NHS Trusts with large A&E departments were the worst offenders in reallocating beds in SCI centres to non-SCI patients.

NHS in denial about problem in SCI centres

The SIA then got Ian Lucas MP to ask the secretary of state for Health and Social care when beds occupied by non-SCI patients in these centres would be returned to use for SCI people. The Dept’s response was that,

“NHS England’s national team has advised that It is not aware of any intelligence to suggest that an SCI patient has been denied a specialist bed during the winter period due to its use by a non-SCI patient.”

This disingenuous reply is clearly at odds with the results of the SIA’s FOI requests and shows that the NHS is clearly in denial about bed blocking in SCI centres. Fortunately, the SIA is campaigning hard to highlight this disgraceful state of affairs and it get it changed.

Find out more about SIA’s campaigning on this issue


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