Patients 'unfairly' discharged

The NHS has said "it is simply not fair to be sending people home late at night" after revelations that 8000 patients a week, some elderly and vulnerable, are being sent home from hospital in the middle of the night to relieve pressure on beds.

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Labour: Overnight discharges are 'unfair'

This news is yet another sign of an NHS in increasing distress. In 13 out of the last 15 weeks, the NHS has failed to meet the Government's lowered A&E target. It is clear that hospitals aren't coping with the pressure they are under and the failure to treat older people properly is a symptom of this.

The Tory-led Government promised patients there would be "no decision about me, without me". This unfair practice is in danger of making a mockery of that principle. He needs to explain what he will do to bring an end to it.

– Labour's Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham MP

Labour: 'Vulnerable people' should not be discharged overnight

Pensioners
Pensioners Credit: Daybreak

Andy Burnham MP, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, responded to the report on hospital patients being discharged overnight:

"Elderly people should not be treated in this way by the NHS and we need decisive action to stop it.

"Hospitals are under pressure but there can no justification for sending vulnerable people home in the middle of the night, cold and disorientated, and without the necessary support of family and friends."

Unplanned hospital discharges may cause 'distress'

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.

– Age UK Charity Director General Michelle Mitchell

Age UK: Patients should be discharged when 'support is in place'

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.

– Age UK Charity Director General Michelle Mitchell

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Overnight hospital discharges minimal in some regions

The Times (£) claims there are big differences in overnight discharges between regions. After sending Freedom of Information requests to all 170 NHS hospital trusts in England, it said the 100 trusts that replied admitted 239,233 patients had been sent home overnight in 2011.

If other trusts were discharging at similar rates, it would add up to 400,000 discharges annually. But rates varied between 8.7 per cent and less than 1 per cent across the trusts.

  • Derby Hospitals Foundation Trust said it had sent 8.7 per cent of its patients home overnight in 2011-12, claiming that there might be problems with its records.
  • Trusts like Birmingham's the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Countess of Chester and University Hospitals of Leicester also have rates above 7 per cent.
  • However, other trusts have rates below 1 per cent and Newcastle Hospitals said it never discharged patients at night.

Thousands of patients sent home overnight in 2011

The Times newspaper (£) gave Freedom of Information requests to all 170 NHS hospital trusts in England, asking for details of patients discharged between 11pm and 6am.

Around 100 trusts replied, saying that 239,233 patients had been sent home between those hours in 2011.

If all the remaining trusts were discharging at similar rates, this would add up to 400,000 of these discharges annually, that is nearly 8,000 a week. Rates varied between 8.7 per cent and less than 1 per cent across the trusts, the newspaper said.