Senior doctors have warned that thousands of elderly patients are discharged from hospital without proper arrangements having been made for the ongoing care they will need at home. A survey of over 200 leading UK surgeons found that only 25% of them thought that there were adequate systems to ensure proper home support for vulnerable patients when they were sent home after a hospital stay.
President of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), Clare Marx, highlighted the fact that too many elderly and confused patients were sent home with equipment which they could use, and were simply given a list of telephone contacts and told to organise their own assistance.
Ms Marx also claimed that these failings are leading to higher numbers of patients having to be readmitted to hospital as an emergency at a later date. The NHS’s own figures show a rise of 27% in the number of patients who are readmitted into hospital within a month of their initial discharge.
In absolute terms, the latest statistics show 560,000 cases like this in England year, which equates to 1 in 9 people being discharged from hospital only to be back within the month.
Patients who are discharged from hospital without the correct medical support are much more likely to suffer infections, falls or other complications.
Only 26% of surgeons polled by the RCS stated that their hospitals had put in place robust planning to make sure that patients being discharged got the correct care. Communication issues were highlighted though, as just 41% of surgeons felt that cares were given the full picture about the needs of patients.
Unsurprisingly, the most vulnerable patients were believe to fare the worse upon discharge, and the situation was worst at weekends due to the fact there was less care available.
In some of the most severe cases which put patients at risk, the RCS had been forced to intervene. This included the shocking case of a pensioner discharged on Christmas Eve and who had not been shown how to change his colostomy bag.
Surgeons felt that lack of coordinated care was worse when patients were moved between specialties in hospital and was also worse for elderly patients and those without support from friends or family living nearby.
Over half of the medics questioned believed that this situation could be vastly improved by adopting the use of computerised medical records.
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