THOUSANDS of patients are being discharged from Wigan Infirmary in the middle of the night to free up beds, it has emerged.
The Wigan Evening Post can exclusively reveal that in the past two years, 4,113 patients were sent home by Wrightington Wigan Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) between the hours of 11pm and 6am.
The figures, revealed through a Freedom of Information request to WWL, show that the figure accounts for some 2.5 per cent of all discharges. The news comes following a Government investigation in April into the amount of patients being discharged overnight nationally and a drive to end the practice.
WWL’s figure of 2.5 per cent of all discharges falls way below the national average of 3.5 per cent, some hospital trusts having figures as high as eight per cent.
WWL say that the figures refer to patients who have been discharged from the hospitals’s Clinical Decision Unit.
A spokeswoman for WWL said: “Patients are placed temporarily on this unit; they many have been admitted via A&E or via their GPs for urgent tests.
“Once a diagnosis or test results have been confirmed, patients will be discharged – at any time of the day or night - but only if they are happy to be so and have appropriate transport home.”
But night discharges have also come under fire from the Patients’ Association, who said it received several calls a week from distressed relatives.
Nonetheless the head of the NHS, Sir Bruce Keogh, has pledged to look into the figures to ensure patients are sent home only when it is ‘appropriate, safe and convenient’.
Sir Bruce said: “I a concerned to hear that some patients may be being discharged unnecessarily late. It is simply not fair to be sending people home late at night. We will look at this.”
WWL say that only patients who specifically ask or express their consent will now be discharged at night as part of the trust’s new Patient Discharge Charter.
The charter was formed with input from patients, carers, governors, community groups, nurses, doctors and others from health and social care.
Pauline Law, the Wigan trust’s acting deputy director of Nursing and Patient Services, said: “The patient discharge charter will ensure that all our patients are discharged safely and effectively.
“It is part of the continuous work we are doing to ensure that our patients have the best possible experience whilst in our care”.
Other standards in the discharge charter include informing your GP of your discharge within 24 hours and providing you or your family/carer with information concerning rest, diet, medication, and follow-up appointments.