A recent report undertaken by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, has highlighted the growing concerns of NHS admissions, discharge and transfer arrangements procedures.
It has been reported that in 2014/15 there were 6286 complaints about admissions, discharge and transfer arrangements, this is a 6.3% increase on the figures recorded in 2013/14. 221 of these complaints were related to the discharge of patients.
It has been recognised that many patients are being discharged before they are clinically ready, resulting in, readmission to hospital or even potentially avoidable deaths. Failure to follow discharge procedures poses a threat to patient safety and may be a breach of the NHS’ duty of care.
Clinicians are failing to properly assess patients’ needs prior to being discharged from hospital. Clinicians are failing to consider whether elderly patients and, in particular, sufferers of dementia, have the capacity to make the decision that they are well enough to go home. A failure to assess the capacity of such patients places them at risk.
A lack of communication between clinicians and patients’ relatives about the decision to discharge has been seen to cause families unnecessary pain and grief, particularly when an elderly relative has been discharged from hospital and has returned home without the appropriate support.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, June Mellor, said “Health and Social care leaders must work harder to ensure why ten years of guidance to prevent unsafe discharge is not being followed causing misery and distress for patients, families and carers.”
The Department of Health has a programme envisaging healthcare and social care working jointly to improve discharge planning. However the ombudsman and Health Watch England are sceptical about the programme with the latter stating fundamental changes are required.