It was reported that two long-haul aircraft nearly collided above us recently. Although we hope nothing like this happens, there is the risk - which is all the more reason for local hospitals increasing the number of reserve beds needed to ensure waiting lists and times are reduced short-term and kept that way long-term. Reserve beds iron out the blips due to emergencies, and the build-up of recuperating and elderly patients with no suitable after-care place.

It is folly for hospitals to ignore these factors. They need to think long-term; to do this, beds need to be increased with flexible management.

Hospitals may say they have beds not in use for economy reasons. If this is so it is a false economy, because government funds are based on this year's established services. And if the costs of these are being kept artificially low, they are building in 'cuts' for next year. This will become a vicious circle: they will have to economise again, and the realistic cost of providing an adequate service will not be met.

The service robbed will say it has had 'government cuts', but in fact it will have been cut by its own making, or that of the establishment based on former Tory strategy, which has not been radically changed.

Eric Naylor

Co-ordinator

NHS Patients Campaign

Essex