Inappropriate Discharges Costing Hospitals Billions

Data from Freedom of Information Requests analysed by patients’ rights group Healthwatch England has revealed a nationwide issue with the way that hospitals are discharging patients, leading to wasted costs for the NHS, clinical negligence, and a risk to patient’s health.

The National Audit Office has previously revealed that 2014 saw over a million patients re-admitted to hospital within 30 days of after clinical negligence discharge. This not only means that patients were being sent home either when they were nor fit or without the proper support in place to prevent relapse or further injury leading to clinical negligence, but that over £2.4billion is being spent each year due to the fact that patients have to be re-admitted and assessed.


This new data shows that half of hospitals reviewed failed to record any details of the patient’s home environment (meaning that proper discharge assessment is impossible), and that a third were failing to record whether or not the patient’s GP and carer had been informed of any change in medication, leading to a risk of overdose, harm and clinical negligence.


Anna Bradley from Healthwatch England said “There is a huge human and financial cost of getting discharge wrong”. Some of the examples revealed by Healthwatch’s enquiry include a stroke survivor being sent home by taxi when his wife had been told he was being transferred to a rehabilitation centre, and the discharge of a gentleman with mental health problems without assessment or input from a psychiatrist.


Hospitals across the country are under enormous pressure to discharge patients as soon as possible. With bed shortages and expectations to reduce waiting time for treatment, the NHS face a catch 22 scenario. Where keeping patients within their care is too costly however releasing before they are fit is causing clinical negligence.


Discharge of the elderly and vulnerable has long been in the spotlight, with a shortage of community care and support provision being blamed for hospital beds being tied up by patients, but is the pressure to focus on care for the elderly leading to other patients being sent home when they too are at risk?

This can lead to the NHS treating injuries that would not otherwise have occurred or supporting the patient through a longer than normal recovery; all of which adds up to that £2.4billion a year without the costs of clinical negligence cases.

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