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Investigation into overnight discharges from NHS hospitals

12th April 2012

An investigation has been launched after it emerged that hospital patients in England are being discharged during the night to free up beds.

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Under a Freedom of Information request, The Times surveyed 100 trusts and discovered that between them they sent home 239,233 patients last year between the hours of 11pm and 6am.

NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said: “I am concerned to hear that some patients may be being discharged unnecessarily late. Patients should only be discharged when it's clinically appropriate, safe and convenient for them and their families.

“It is simply not fair to be sending people home late at night. We will look at this.”

Of 170 trust contacted by The Times, 100 responded with discharge rates varying between hospitals.

Around 3.5% of all hospital discharges took place between those hours while Derby Hospitals Foundation Trust sent 8.7% of its patients home overnight and Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust in Birmingham, Countess of Chester and University Hospitals of Leicester trusts had overnight discharge rates above 7%.

The British Medical Association said the figures highlighted the “enormous pressure” the health service was under while the Patients Association said it received regular calls from people who had been sent home from hospital without any warning late at night and that sending them home at such an hour was unacceptable.

Some hospitals said they kept detailed records of late discharge times while others acknowledged they could not guarantee the accuracy of the figures and that information was not necessarily recorded accurately.

 

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