The declining number of available hospital beds is playing a significant role in the number of patient deaths, according to a leading health statistician.

A recent investigation conducted by Professor Sir Brian Jarman found that the average occupancy levels in English hospitals has risen to almost 90%, a figure well above the government’s recommended average target level of 85%. The 85% target hasn’t been exceeded since 2002.

Despite admissions doubling to more than 16 million since the late 1980s, the amount of hospital beds now stands at 130,404, less than half of the amount in 1987-88.

The statistician also noted that alongside high occupancy rates a factor in the variation of death rates in hospitals across England is ongoing doctor shortages.

In a study conducted in 2012 by The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, it was found that almost 12,000 patients die needlessly every year as a result of poor patient care – approximately 1,000 a month.

Gwen Kirby-Dent, senior clinical negligence solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “The shortage of hospital beds has been an issue affecting the NHS for many years now and it’s deeply concerning to hear that failure to provide more beds – something that can easily be fixed by increased funding - is a key factor in the number of patient deaths.

“The government claims that the NHS is coping well with the increased demand but the fact that the recommended occupancy level has not been met in more than 15 years suggests that there is clearly something very wrong.

“It’s imperative that the government takes action to solve this issue. The number of preventable deaths is appalling and families across the UK are being put through unnecessary heartbreak because the government isn’t addressing the problem quickly enough – how many more people have to die before the government steps up to the mark? Without increased funding for the NHS we can only assume that the number of unnecessary deaths will rise.”