Poor hospital discharge process puts patients ‘at risk’

As reported by the BBC, patients are being put at risk because of a lack of staff awareness about discharging them from hospital.

Poor relationships between GPs and hospitals also mean patients are staying in hospital longer than necessary.

The report from The Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) highlighted that “significant attention” was needed at hospitals and a spokesman for the Welsh Government said that systems were being rolled out to improve the situation.

But the HIW called for more discussions between professionals and families about how and when discharge will take place.  It also said poor IT systems were stopping GPs getting enough relevant information.

Without a national approach for addressing so-called “bed blocking”, health board policies were “fragmented”, according to HIW’s chief executive Dr Kate Chamberlain.

The report included comments from a doctor who works in Blaenau Gwent, who explained that problems stemmed from transferring patients’ large files between physical and electronic formats.

The issue was highlighted last year when a patient described as “fit for discharge” waited four years at a hospital in the Hywel Dda health board area.

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething had blamed difficulty in putting together a package to meet the patient’s “complex needs”, while the Welsh Government said delayed transfer of care figures were at the lowest level for 12 years.

But the HIW report said the way a patient was discharged from hospital was “critical to the effectiveness of their ongoing care in the community”.

The report made13 recommendations and observations, including:

  • The process is more efficient where ward-based pharmacy staff are used
  • Using an electronic discharge system was found to give better and quicker information to GPs
  • Insufficient engagement with patients and families on how and when discharge will occur
  • Calls for greater clarity of the professionals involved in the process, with stronger relationships between GPs and hospitals

While describing the quality and timeliness of discharge across Wales as “variable”, the report said progress was being made and professionals needed to take “greater responsibility.”

A Welsh Government spokesman added that a number of IT methods were either being implemented or reviewed.

Devonshires Claims team of medical negligence solicitors has experience in dealing with patients and their families after inappropriate discharge has led to injury and in serious cases, death.

If you or a family member has suffered as a result of poor discharge practices, and feel that this has caused an injury, we at Devonshires specialise in the field of medical negligence and are here to help with the difficult process of seeking compensation.

If you wish to speak with one of our team, Karen Cathcart is a specialist lawyer with experience in hospital negligence claims and can be contacted on 0207 880 4383 or at Karen.cathcart@devonshires.co.uk

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