A latest analysis of figures show hospitals have continued to send thousands of frail patients home between the hours of 11pm and 6am. Figures show more than 150,000 patients from around half of England’s NHS trusts were recorded as being discharged at ‘unacceptable’ hours, of which 18,500 included were over the age of 75.
Campaigners say hospitals are under pressure to have patients discharged at unacceptable hours so they can create space for more urgent cases coming from A&E departments.
Some doctors have questioned the figures, saying they may include hospital patient transfers or the recording may be incorrect as the discharge time may be mistaken by the actual time the paperwork was completed by nursing staff.
In one case, a 64 year old man who had suffered a stroke was discharged from an A&E unit at 3:30am and was later found wandering around a cricket field in sub-zero temperature in a confused state of mind.
An NHS England spokesman said: ‘Discharging patients at night without appropriate support is unacceptable, particularly if a patient is vulnerable. Where a patient wishes to leave late at night it should be accommodated only where it is clinically appropriate and with the support of family, friends or carers.
Ally Taft, Senior Associate at the Medical Accident Group said “Not only are around 300,000 people being sent home from hospitals in the middle of the night, the findings show that tens of thousands of these patients were over the age of 75, and even more were considered to be vulnerable.
“We can understand that hospitals are busier than ever and that there are a shortage of beds, but that does not excuse providing a poor level of care to those who need it most. If a patient makes the choice themselves to leave the hospital throughout the night, then that’s fine, but it’s the duty of the medical professionals to ensure that patients are in a fit state to leave, have a way of getting home and aren’t left to wander the streets in the dark.
“What’s most shocking is that the report only covered 72 of England’s 160 NHS trusts, and we feel it’s a fair assumption that if the majority of the 72 investigated are admitting to seeing an increase in those discharged throughout the night, there’s a good chance the majority of the remaining 88 are seeing the same increase. If anything were to happen to any of those patients who were left to find their own way home, it’s the hospital at fault and staff should be held accountable. The NHS has a duty of care to look after everyone, not to turn those away who aren’t considered important at the time, as that’s when mistakes are made, someone is misdiagnosed, or someone gets into some sort of trouble whilst trying to find their way home.”
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