Britain has fewer hospital beds per head of population than most other European countries, a report has found.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the UK had three hospital beds per 1,000 people in 2011, the same ratio as Ireland.
These ratios were far behind the majority of countries on the continent, with Germany having 8.3 per 1,000 people; Austria 7.7, Hungary 7.2, Czech Republic 6.8, and Poland 6.6.
Estonia (5.3) Slovenia (4.6) also had considerably more, with only Sweden having a lower amount, at 2.7 per 1,000 population.
The figures also show that the number of hospital beds per head of population has gradually fallen in Britain since 2000 when there were 4.1 per 1,000 people.
As well as a lack of beds, the NHS also has to contend with so-called ”bed blockers” who are kept in beds which could be used by others.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of the Foundation Trust network, which represents NHS hospitals, said the OECD figures show its members were operating near full capacity.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “There is no slack in the system and trusts are constantly juggling their resources to meet patient demand.
“We must avoid situations where elderly people are moved from one bed to the next, or forced to endure long waits on trolleys, but it’s not easy because of the pressure the system is under.”