A national enquiry has been announced by Healthwatch England – the statutory consumer champion for health and social care. The enquiry will hear evidence from 148 of its community groups about failings in the safe discharge of patients from hospital.
Official figures show that more than 1 million patients were readmitted to hospital as an emergency last year within a month of being sent home. This is a raise of more than one quarter in a decade.
The organisation said local groups had uncovered distressing cases of poorly planned discharge. In some cases elderly dementia sufferers were sent back to homes without heating or food. In other cases homeless people were discharged shortly after major surgery.
The estimated costs to the NHS of emergency readmission shortly after discharge is put at £2.4 billion.
The Chair of the organisation, Anna Bradley, said “Taking the time to ask patients about how they are going to cope when they return home and assuring everyone has the support they need sounds simple, but all too often fails to happen”.
Speaking of the enquiry, Richard Wood from CNCI said "Inappropriate discharge from hospital is something that we occasionally see In the cases we deal with. Generally the consequences are not catastrophic but elderly and vulnerable people are left unsupported and often isolated. In a few cases where those individuals suffer falls or a deterioration in underlying medical conditions then they may require emergency readmission. There is a worrying lack of communication with patients, their families and neighbours. We appreciate the pressures on hospital beds but early or inappropriate discharge of vulnerable patients ultimately causes more problems for the NHS”.