There are fewer hospital beds in Britain than most other European countries, with less than half the number of many, a report has found.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UK had three hospital beds per 1,000 people in 2011, with Ireland having the same number.

This was far behind the majority of other countries on the continent, with Germany having 8.3 per 1,000 people, Austria 7.7, Hungary 7.2, Czech Republic 6.8 and Poland 6.6.

Estonia (5.3) Slovenia (4.6) also had considerably more, with only Sweden having a lower amount, at 2.7 per 1,000 population.

The figures show that the number of hospital beds has gradually fallen in Britain since 2000 when there were 4.1 per 1,000 people.

As well as a lack of beds, the NHS also has to contend with so-called ''bed blockers'' who take up beds that could be used by others. Many elderly people have unnecessarily long stays in hospital because social care services are not able to support them once they are discharged.

Last October p eople needing vital medical care in England missed out on nearly 80,000 days i n hospital beds because they were being taken up by patients who were well enough to be moved on, NHS England said.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of the Foundation Trust network, which represents NHS hospitals, said the OECD figures show they are operating near full capacity.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "There is no slack in the system and trusts are constantly juggling their resources to meet patient demand.

"We must avoid situations where elderly people are moved from one bed to the next, or forced to endure long waits on trolleys, but it's not easy because of the pressure the system is under."