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By Debbie le Quesne

Night hospital discharge system must change

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The practice of discharging thousands of NHS patients from hospitals in the middle of the night – despite bosses ordering a crackdown to stop it – made Sky News headlines.

In a special investigation the news team found the “number of patients leaving hospital in England between 11pm and 6am has actually risen in the last two years.”

Way back in April 2012, NHS called on hospitals to cut down on overnight discharges following a series of cases where vulnerable patients had been left to make their own way home.

Some of those vulnerable patients are elderly and in care. It’s a shameful state of affairs.

Clearly the NHS needs to free up beds – but like this? No way!

Figures obtained by Sky News following Freedom of Information (FOI) requests show that despite pleas for it to end, the practice is still widespread and in many cases rising.

Figures show more than 300,000 patients have been discharged late at night since 2012 – an average of around 400 a night. Tens of thousands of those patients were over 75.

A Sky online report claims that “experts say that patients often end up in care homes in the middle of the night.”

Let me quote some more – Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, says: “They [the residents] are going back without any relevant information about how their care might have changed, what the diagnosis might have been, their paperwork is not following because people are off duty and often without the relevant medication they need for the following day or even through the night.”

Now the National Care Association is attempting to gather information on how many residential-setting residents this has affected within its membership. The data would be useful and I would encourage a good response . . . please!

But for me there’s a more important question to address: If these patients can be discharged, why no during the day? Many service users who have emergency admissions are left waiting with their carers for hours and delays sometime result in overnight stays. It’s the economies of madness.

Frankly it’s a shambles and here are the stark facts as reported. News asked 160 NHS trusts in England how many patients had been discharged between 11pm and 6am in the past three years.

“Of those, 72 trusts provided figures for all three years. In 41 cases, the number of patients discharged overnight increased.

“In 31 cases the proportion of patients discharged between 11pm and 6am increased. In three trusts it remained the same.

“Of the 72 trusts that replied, 152,472 patients were discharged between 11pm and 6am in 2011/12, rising to 152,479 in 2013/14.

“The figures also reveal that 20,152 were aged over 75 in 2011/12; 19,728 in 2012/13 and 18,548 in 2013/14.

“The proportion of patients discharged overnight remained the same at 2.41%.”

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