NHS Scotland has cut the number of hospital beds by more than 600 in the past year, prompting the Scottish Conservatives to urge ministers to “get on top of the situation”.
Official figures show a 622 reduction in beds between 2015/16 and 2016/17, a 2.8% drop to 21,340.
Statistics for the past five years show the number of beds has fallen each year from 23,012 in 2012/13, a 7.3% reduction in total.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “There is a general shift towards community care, which will explain some of the reductions we’ve seen over the past years.
“But at the same time, we have an expanding and an ageing population, and we’re going to need hospital beds to support and care for more patients who have increasingly complex needs.
“The NHS is under severe financial pressure, but having access to a hospital bed must remain one of its fundamental principles.
“We’ve all heard the horror stories about people being kept waiting on trolleys in accident and emergency, and massive delays for various types of care.
“When these things happen against a backdrop of dwindling bed numbers, it’s easy to see where at least some of that problem lies.
“The Scottish Government must get on top of this situation and make sure, when beds are taken out of action, it is for the right reason, and no patient will suffer as a consequence.
“Increasingly it seems that SNP ministers’ planning around hospital bed numbers has limited flexibility and that their usage modelling is not matching what is required in reality.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The number of available beds will vary throughout the year to reflect demand however we have introduced measures to ensure there is an increased focus on hospital capacity and patient flow.
“This year, the total investment for health and social care services to deal with winter pressures and enhance resilience across the services will now be a record high of £22.4 million, making sure patients are seen quickly, efficiently and without delay.
“There are also over 700 intermediate care beds available across Scotland, and health and social care partnerships are developing innovative ways of delivering intermediate care, including the use of supported housing.”
She added that there has been a 10% reduction in length of stay in hospital for elective admissions since 2011/12.