Hospitals in the north have 539 fewer beds than five years ago

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Hospitals in the north and north-east have 539 fewer beds that they did five years ago, according to official statistics.

The NHS Grampian area alone has lost 348 hospital beds, down by 15% since 2013-14, while the number of beds at NHS Highland facilities has reduced by 154, or 13%, in the same period.

It means that bed space is disappearing in northern Scotland at almost double the 7% average rate experienced across the country.

NHS Orkney has five fewer beds, a drop of 10%, while in the Western Isles the number had reduced by 20, or 14%, and in Shetland there were 12 fewer – a fall of 19%.

Health boards are trying to reduce their “reliance” on hospital beds, and move more people home or to be looked after in the community.

However, Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said the number of hospital beds should be rising, not falling.

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He added: “The SNP will no doubt argue that the way people are being cared for is changing, and that involves moving people out of hospital and back into the community.

“And while that may be partly true, it doesn’t account for an increasing and ageing population which is going to place more pressure on the NHS.

“That’s why the number of beds should be going up – not reducing.

“At no point has the SNP government provided the scoping evidence on the future bed demands NHS Scotland will need.

“However, SNP ministers have been quick to cut NHS beds out of hospitals across the country.”

An NHS Highland spokesman said: “The board continues to make good progress to deliver our strategy to have less reliance on hospital beds and look after more people at home or in the community.

“This is supported by greater use of ambulatory care where care is provided as an outpatient and there is no need for overnight stay in a hospital bed.

“There has also been significant investment in community services and adult social care.”