Hospitals 'sending home patients prematurely'
Published on 11 February 2013 11:30 AM
Emergency readmission rates have doubled over the last 10 years, according to new figures.
Data experts Ssentif Intelligence revealed that the number of over-75s in England who have to undergo emergency readmission to hospital hit 201,000 in 2010/11, significantly up from 103,000 in 2001/02.
The dramatic increase has raised concerns that hundreds of thousands of older patients are being sent home from hospital before they are actually well enough.
Ssentif said that 16% of all over-75s need emergency readmission within 28 days of discharge, although this performance varies around the country.
For instance, readmission rates in the South West are 12.98%, while in London the figure stands at 17.06%.
Meanwhile, readmission rates of more than 20% were reported at Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust, Birmingham Women's NHS Foundation Trust and West Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust - meaning one in five of over-75s treated at these institutions could have been sent home prematurely.
Urgent action needed - Patients Association
A spokeswoman for West Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust claimed that the hospital has been working closely with the primary care trust and local authority to improve the care pathway for older people.
She said particular attention had been given to preventing avoidable readmissions; establishing a specialist team of nursing and therapy staff who assess the needs of older patients when they arrive at the hospital.
In doing so, the spokeswoman added that it ensures 'all of their care and support needs are met during their stay and that their discharge is safe and they are full supported once they leave hospital.'
Across all age groups the figures revealed that 650,000 patients were readmitted as an emergency in 2010/11, considerably up from 380,000 patients in 2001/2.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, called for urgent action to bring down the 'unacceptable' figures.
She claimed that high readmission rates are both costly for the NHS and distressing to patients, sometimes even leading to even more tragic consequences.
'We need a more integrated NHS, so that readmissions don't continue to lead to poor patient care and huge financial costs to the NHS,' added the chief executive.
'Too many older patients discharged without consideration for what will happen to them'
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said: 'Age UK hears too many stories of older patients who are discharged without help or transport, often very late at night, without any consideration for what will happen to them.
'Hospitals have become so focused on freeing up much-needed beds that they can lose sight of the simple steps needed to keep people from being readmitted. To stop the merry-go-round of admission, discharge and readmission requires doctors and nurses to properly assess the underlying reasons why someone is in hospital and then to plan appropriately for when they go home.
'Not only would this massively improve patient care, but it would also end what has become an inefficient and expensive approach to health care.'
Copyright Press Association 2013