A centre-right think tank, Reform, has claimed in a report that patient care would improve and cash could be saved if a quarter of hospital beds in in the North West of England were cut.
If 30,000 beds were to close, the move would save money and create competition, which would drive up standards, according to their report 'Fewer hospitals, more competition'.
The report also says that the latest challenges in healthcare - helping people manage long-term conditions such as diabetes and improving the quality of life for people living with those conditions - are less reliant on hospitals. These conditions can be mostly managed in the community, which cuts cost and moves care away from hospitals, it said.
However, the report has not been received well among leading health bodies and charities.
Immoral, oversimplified and ill-thought-out
Chairman of the BMA's consultants committee, Mark Porter, said: "Bed occupancy rates are already very high in the NHS, which is a principal cause of hospital-acquired infection. Cutting beds for purely financial reasons would be immoral and catastrophic for patient care."
Gavin Terry, Policy Manager at Diabetes UK, said: "Simply axing hospital beds in the hope it will improve care and save cash is an oversimplified and ill-thought-out proposal.
"At least 10 per cent of patients in hospital have diabetes and people such as these, as well as others with common long-term conditions, spend longer in hospital beds because the quality of care is so poor.
“Much greater investment in specialist hospital teams that work with staff and ensure quality treatment is needed if the situation is to improve. Equally, improved provision of local services that better support people in the community is vital in reducing preventable admissions."