The fall amounts to one in ten beds being lost, and has prompted warnings about patient safety amid rising pressure on the health service.
The British Medical Association yesterday said that the decrease in beds was directly contributing to long waits in crowded A&E departments.
The warning comes after three quarters of hospitals last month reported dangerously high occupancy rates of 95 per cent, even though managers are told to aim for a rate of 85 per cent to leave a safe margin of beds to cope with surges of patient demand.
In the first quarter of 2010/11 there were 144,455 available beds, but in the same period in 2016/17 the figure was 130,774 – a fall of almost 9.5 per cent. The loss is comparable to 24 hospitals being closed down.