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Patients put at risk by hospital discharge

17th October 2008

The NHS Alliance has raised concerns that patients leaving hospital can face danger because vital information on their care is not being passed on.

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The organisation surveyed hundreds of GPs with 40% of respondents saying they had found that a patient had been put at risk because messages on their care were inaccurate or had never been sent.

The NHS Alliance, which represents GPs, raised the issue after becoming concerned at the quality of discharge summaries family doctors were receiving from hospitals.

Summaries should contain details of why the patient was in hospital; operations or treatments; drug information; and further treatments they might need in the community.

However, the poll showed that this often did not happen.

The NHS Alliance cited an example of a patient suffering depression and admitted to hospital following an overdose. It took 11 months for the GP to be told about the attempted suicide.

In April a Standard Contract for hospitals to provide discharge information was introduced but several GPs said it had made little difference.

NHS Alliance Chairman Dr Michael Dixon said: "This is a shocking indictment of current practice in secondary care.

"Hospitals seem not to understand nor care that ill patients still need treatment from their family doctor when they go home.

"Hospitals should not be paid until they have delivered prompt, accurate and complete discharge information - and if that is late, then there should be a financial penalty."

The Department of Health said it was "unacceptable" for patient safety to be compromised due to lapses in communication.

 

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