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NHS to investigate discharges claims

Published on 12 April 2012 11:00 AM

An investigation is to be launched into claims that many NHS patients were discharged from hospital in the middle of the night to free up beds.

NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh revealed that action will be taken to ensure that patients are only sent home at convenient times.

His call came after the Times claimed that 3.5% of all discharges in NHS hospitals have taken place between 11pm and 6am, with the rate holding steady for the past half-decade.

The 100 trusts that responded to the newspaper's Freedom of Information request revealed that 239,233 patients were sent home between these hours last year.

The paper added that if the remaining 70 trusts were discharging patients between these hours at a similar rate then some 400,000 overnight discharges would take place in the UK every year.

It also reported that the Patients Association said older patients were worst affected as they are often sent home to empty houses without proper planning.

Sir Bruce said: 'I am concerned to hear that some patients may be being discharged unnecessarily late.

'Patients should only be discharged when it's clinically appropriate, safe and convenient for them and their families. It is simply not fair to be sending people home late at night. We will look at this.'

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said:

'An essential part of good care is focusing on the needs of patients, not the needs of the hospital. So whilst older people who are receiving care in hospital should be able to return home as soon as they are fit and well it is essential that patients are discharged from hospital at a time which ensures that any ongoing support is in place and not simply when a ward needs to free up a bed.

'If patients are sent home without time to plan or without their family having prior notice, it could not only cause unnecessary distress but also increase the risk of having to return to hospital as an emergency readmission. It is essential that care is coordinated to effectively support the patient's safe transition from hospital to home.'

Copyright Press Association 2012

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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