Time for the NHS to be weaned off the boom or bust funding cycle

These are two faults lie at the heart of every NHS winter crisis Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty

Not enough beds. Or where there are beds, patients lying on them in corridors. How did the NHS find itself in this situation?

Of course an ageing population, problems with social care, increased patient demands, variable management and wastefulness all play a part. They always have. But fundamentally, the answer is based on two statistics - on which the NHS actually prides itself: the number of staffed hospital beds and the length of time a patient stays in a bed.

For decades, these two figures have been regarded as good measures of the efficiency of our National Health Service. But they are figures that say very little about real patient care.

For in winter time this model - having the maximum number of beds which you *hope* patients will stay in for the shortest time - breaks down. Because then there can never be enough beds to deal with spikes in the flu and norovirus-related influx.

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