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Mounting cost of early discharge from hospital.


Hospitals which send patients home too early are placing a “massive cost” on the NHS through emergency re-admissions, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has said.

Patients are often sent home before it is safe for them to leave, leading to serious difficulties, including missed cancer diagnoses, said Dame Julie Mellor.

Publishing summaries of 161 investigations between April and June this year, Dame Julie added that early discharges and other major failings were having a “devastating impact” on patients and their families.

In her report, Dame Julie says that, while conclusions about the whole NHS could not be drawn from individual cases, in some instances decisions to wrongly discharge patients may have been influenced by “considering cost implications”.

She said: “We are increasingly concerned about patients being discharged unsafely from hospital and we know that unplanned admissions and readmissions are a massive cost to the NHS.”

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) is  the last port of call for patients who  complain about NHS services in England.

Amid heightened concern about patient safety in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire care scandal, the PHSO’s office investigated 2,199 cases in 2013/14, compared to 384 the previous year.T

The latest publication summarises investigations into 126 complaints relating to healthcare and 35 relating to governance issues, carried out in the first three months of this financial year.

Unsafe discharges from hospital were one of the main areas of concern.

In one case at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, a patient suffering chest pains was sent home without his medication being reviewed or any follow-up care arranged. A week later, he went abroad, became ill and died after suffering a heart attack and stroke.

Although the ombudsman could not say whether the man would have survived were it not for the failings, the report said that he had been “denied any opportunity to make his own choices and to receive treatment that might have saved his life.”