What is it about?

Doctors are often asked to make input into bed calculations but are often not provided with the necessary background to the potential flaws in such calculations. A simple method is presented which allows both inter- and intra-national comparison of bed numbers which are sensitive to both population age structure and the role of nearness-to-death in medical bed demand. Local adjustment will be required to account for the additional demand arising for hospitals servicing more deprived populations.

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Why is it important?

If you get the bed number calculations wrong then you inflict institutionalized inefficiency, patient harm and delays to admission upon the hospital.


This method is the result of a 30 year career in health care forecasting and hospital bed number calculation. It is far too easy to come up with rediculous calculations based on methods which appear to make sense to senior managers who do not appreciate the serious errors in the models. Yes, some countries do operate with fewer medical beds than others, but this is the end product of many years of focussed government policy and implementation. A hospital is part of a whole system which has to be resourced and organised to minimise admissions. If the system is deficient then the hospital becomes the default. In theory this simple method is not supposed to work. However, its success relies on the simple fact that 55% of a persons lifetime bed occupancy occurs in the last year of life, plus the fact that any agent or condition which can precipitate death will also lead to many times more hospital admissions. Hence the absolute number of deaths (and its volatility) becomes a profoundly important contributor to bed demand. COVID-19 is an elegant example of this relationship.

Dr Rodney P Jones
Healthcare Analysis & Forecasting

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A simple method to validate medical bed number calculations, European Journal of Internal Medicine, September 2021, Elsevier,
DOI: 10.1016/j.ejim.2021.08.009.
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