Published: 06/12/2001, Volume III, No. 5784 Page 7

Acute trust managers have claimed that the nationwide bed census undertaken last week gives an inaccurate picture of bed availability across the NHS, by ignoring private sector provision.

Last Friday, trusts across England were required to provide a snapshot of bed numbers to the Department of Health in a bid to help winter capacity planning.

The census covers general and acute beds in both acute and community settings, but does not extend as far as beds from contracted services.

United Bristol Healthcare trust strategic development director David Bell said: 'It doesn't actually give you an accurate picture of what is going on. For instance, with us there are 25 beds that are contracted at a nursing home for intermediate care to help in the transition from hospital, but they will not be recorded.

'It is really selling the NHS short.

It doesn't show, with all the talk of closer links with the private sector, just how far that is going. '

Though Mr Bell said the workload generated in providing the data was tiny, some trusts contacted by HSJ claimed it had been a distraction for managers, taking up time and resources.

As HSJ went to press, a DoH spokesperson said the results would be published 'shortly'.