Technology’s role in improving overcrowding in hospitals


The future of the NHS has been a hotly debated topic in recent times, with talk of privatisation dominating the political conversations amid the backdrop of Brexit and the Conservatives’ comprehensive victory in the December 2019 general election.

For millions of people across the UK, the care provided by the NHS is vital, enabling those who are sick or injured to receive treatment completely free of charge while in other countries that same level of support may come at a hefty price.

However, issues such as understaffing and a lack of funding mean that the NHS is straining under the weight of caring for the sheer volume of patients, with recent research showing 90% of NHS wards to be overcrowded. Guidelines state that hospitals should have no more than 85% of their beds in use, in a bid to improve treatment times and reduce the risk of infection, but that threshold is consistently being exceeded as doctors and nurses struggle to keep up with the number of people in desperate need of care and attention.

In July 2017, the NHS released a guide on how to improve patient flow, although in February 2019 it was revealed that A&E waiting times were at their worst levels in 15 years. And, with staff shortages being compounded by thousands of EU employees resigning in the wake of the Brexit vote, overcrowding in hospitals looks set to be a problem that will continue for the foreseeable future. So, what can be done to alleviate the issue?

How technology can help

The digitisation of hospitals’ internal workflows could help to make a significant difference in patient flow and contribute towards reducing overcrowding. By implementing the right bed management software, this can become an altogether more effective and efficient process.

Subsequently, the health and safety of the patient will be vastly improved while the coordination and quality of their care will also be enhanced, all of which contributes towards a vastly superior patient experience. And the healthcare professionals themselves will gain greater job satisfaction, suffering lower levels of stress as they have more time to devote to each person in their ward.

A digital bed management system can also prove far easier to use than prior methods, thus helping to save time and money, all of which should help hospitals achieve their targets.

What are the solutions?

Some of these software solutions can be installed to help hospitals improve their bed management:

  • Screens that detail all bed requests and the status of occupancy on all wards throughout the hospital, so that bed managers can assess the level of availability.
  • Whiteboards that provide a succinct summary of a ward’s capacity as well as any scheduled discharges or expected admissions, while patient cards and details of off-ward locations are also on display.
  • Patient lists can be created and shared among staff across the hospital, with filters and specialised functions inserted to make access to a patient’s profile more straightforward.
  • All of this software can also be configured for use on a mobile device, meaning doctors and nurses can retrieve and share the information they need even when they’re on the go.