Healthwatch England response to Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report on hospital discharge

May 11, 2016

From the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Vulnerable patients and their families suffering harrowing ordeals due to poor hospital discharge
Patients are being sent home alone, afraid and unable to cope and in some cases without their relatives or carers being told, resulting in devastating consequences, according to a report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman published today.
The report highlights cases investigated by the Ombudsman service where people have been discharged from hospital before they are fit to leave or without making sure they can cope on their return home.
Last year the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman saw a 36% increase in discharge related investigations. These found that people’s deaths or suffering could have been prevented if hospitals carried out the right checks before discharging people.
The report reveals how one woman in her 80s was discharged from hospital to an empty house, in a confused state with a catheter still in place. It also tells the tragic experience a grandmother in her late 90s, who collapsed and died at home in her granddaughter’s arms after being discharged from hospital too soon.
Another hospital sent an 85-year-old woman with dementia home alone at 11pm, without informing her family, despite the fact she was unable to look after herself. Her daughter visited her the next morning to find that her mother had been left with no food, drink and bedding, unable to care for herself or get to the toilet.
Another investigation found that a father’s death from sepsis could have been avoided if he had been treated for the condition before he was discharged from hospital.
The friends and family who complained about their loved ones’ treatment told the Ombudsman service of the impact of their experiences. One woman said she would be “haunted for the rest of her life” by her mother’s avoidable suffering just before she died. Her mother, who was 80, had Parkinson’s disease and dementia. She was re-admitted to hospital several times after being repeatedly sent home where she was unable to cope. She later died in hospital. Her daughter said she now has nightmares and can’t sleep because of what happened to her mother.
Responding to the PHSO’s findings that discharge-related investigations have risen by 36% year on year Jane Mordue, Interim Chair of Healthwatch England, said:
“The Ombudsman’s findings reflect what local Healthwatch heard last year from more than 3,000 people about their experiences of discharge. While the cases in the report are extreme examples of the harm and distress unsafe discharge causes to individuals and their families, they illustrate how vital it is to get the basics right.
“We are pleased that the Department of Health is now using this evidence to coordinate a shared response across health and social care providers to ensure that the issue is tackled at every level. Local Healthwatch, who operate across both health and social care, are well placed and ready to help.
“From the moment we are admitted, all staff across health and care services need to start planning how and when we are going to leave hospital. This is what the best teams already do, working with patients and investing more time in discharge planning. We want to see this replicated across the board, ensuring that everyone experiences a safe and timely discharge.”

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