The Conservative Party has claimed the NHS is “ill-prepared” for the second wave of swine flu many experts believe will strike the UK in the coming months.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said the system was at breaking point after figures obtained by the Conservative Party showed thousands of intensive care patients had to be discharged early or moved to alternative sites owing to a lack of beds nationwide.

Obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the statistics show that almost 2,000 people in England were discharged early because of bed shortages, while 1,000 were moved to beds in other hospitals for the same reason.

The request also revealed that 20,000 patients had their discharge from intensive care delayed because of a lack of space in other wards.

Mr Lansley said: “The government urgently needs to review its plans in order to help the NHS provide extra beds to deal with the swine flu pandemic and ease the pressure on intensive care units.”

The claims were rejected by the the government’s flu director, Ian Dalton, who said: “We have asked the NHS to double capacity if needed and plans are well advanced in every region to do this.”