The impact of inpatient bed capacity on length of stay

September 4, 2021

The European Journal of Health Economics (2021)

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Objective: Large reductions in inpatient length of stay and inpatient bed supply have occurred across health systems in recent years. However, the direction of causation between length of stay and bed supply is often overlooked. This study examines the impact of changes to inpatient bed supply, as a result of recession-induced healthcare expenditure changes, on emergency inpatient length of stay in Ireland between 2010 and 2015.

Study design: We analyse all public hospital emergency inpatient discharges in Ireland from 2010 to 2015 using the administrative Hospital In-Patient Enquiry dataset. We use changes to inpatient bed supply across hospitals over time to examine the impact of bed supply on length of stay. Linear, negative binomial, and hospital–month-level fxed efects models are estimated.

Results: U-shaped trends are observed for both average length of stay and inpatient bed supply between 2010 and 2015. A consistently large positive relationship is found between bed supply and length of stay across all regression analyses. Between 2010 and 2012 while length of stay fell by 6.4%, our analyses estimate that approximately 42% (2.7% points) of this reduction was associated with declines in bed supply.

Conclusion: Changes in emergency inpatient length of stay in Ireland between 2010 and 2015 were closely related to changes in bed supply during those years. The use of length of stay as an efciency measure should be understood in the contextual basis of other health system changes. Lower length of stay may be indicative of the lack of resources or available bed supply as opposed to reduced demand for care or the shifting of care to other settings.

Publication Details


The European Journal of Health Economics

Date of Publication

September 4, 2021

ESRI Series

Journal Article


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