Many patients are being sent home from hospital “alone, afraid and unable to cope”, according to a damning new report released today.
People are being “badly let down by the system”, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) said after its new report highlighted the “harrowing” impact of poorly managed hospital discharges on patients and their families.
The authors say that being discharged from hospital to the comfort of one’s own home should come as a relief, but in many cases this “couldn’t be further from the truth”.
But Wigan health chiefs say the national picture does not reflect in any way the situation locally.
A WWL spokesman said: “WWL only discharge patients from hospital once they have been assessed as medically fit by a doctor. We also ensure that any additional care needs or support are in place to allow them to go home or to be transferred to another intermediate care setting such as a care or nursing home.
“On admission to any of our wards, patients receive an estimated date of discharge. This date is discussed with both the patient and their family; thus allows for the planning for discharge on admission.”
The ombudsman concluded that in hospitals across the country, many patients are being sent home before they are clinically ready to leave hospital, and others may be medically fit to be discharged but may not be practically ready to cope at home.
Meanwhile, relatives and carers are not always being alerted when patients are discharged and some patients are being sent home with no care plan in place.
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor, said: “Our investigations have found that some of the most vulnerable patients, including frail and older people, are enduring harrowing ordeals when they leave hospital.
“Poor planning, co-ordination and communication between hospital staff and between health and social care services are failing patients, compromising their safety and dignity.
“Health and social care leaders must work harder to uncover why ten years of guidance to prevent unsafe discharge is not being followed, causing misery and distress for patients, families and carers.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Most people would assume that in a civilised society no older person would ever be pressured to leave hospital without adequate support being in place, yet recent calls to Age UK’s advice line also show that in our hospitals today, good basic discharge practice is by no means guaranteed.
“As such this report and the dreadful cases it describes mark a new low in what looks like a continuous downward trend in the capacity of our health and care system to look after our older people adequately – indeed, on occasion even in its ability to keep the most vulnerable safe.”
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at the Alzheimer’s Society, added: “All hospitals should have a discharge policy that takes the needs of people with dementia into account.
“People should be assigned a discharge co-ordinator who ensures they have a health and social care assessment, and that a support package is put in place to meet the needs of the person and their carer. The discharge should be discussed with the person and their carer with at least 24 hours’ notice, along with transport to home or care home.”
Mary Fleming, WWL Director of Operations and Performance said, “We continue to work very closely with all partners to ensure safe, timely and effective patient discharges are made every day.”