The UK government is investigating claims that some hospital patients are being discharged overnight. Guidelines are in place to prevent the transport of patients from hospital to hospital overnight, unless there is a clinical need, and likewise discharges home are time sensitive.
As a rule of thumb patients should not be discharged home between the hours of 11pm and 6am. Hospitals have gone a long way to stooping such practices. Sadly they still happen. This is said not simply because of today's news but after more than 12 years working in an NHS hospital.
Problems occur when bed shortages happen. As NHS trusts cut the number of beds available to meet the new budget restrictions it may be a hard thing to prevent. If an emergency admission is in dire need of a bed the alternatives available are numbered.
Elderly and vulnerable patients obviously need careful consideration before discharge but so do many others. It could simply be the area where you live that makes a night discharge not advisable. It does not take much to think of potential problems. It is after all not rocket science.
The Times newspaper has reported on overnight hospital discharges, which in turn has instigated this investigation. As allowed under the Freedom of Information requests in the UK, The Times contacted 170 NHS trusts, but only 100 in England replied. The 100 though had some staggering figures. 239,233 patients were discharged home by these trusts, in 2011, between the hours of 11pm and 6am.
Whilst the government is investigating the claims made by the Times, it is hard to believe that such practices were not known by the government. With a decrease in funding, a decrease in beds and a decrease in staff, inner city hospitals in particular will continue to fail in their bed management.
Tags: NHS trusts, UK health care, overnight hospital discharges
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog