Senior medics have warned that many thousands of vulnerable or elderly patients are not getting the care they require when being sent home after a hospital stay.
A survey of over 200 British doctors found that only 25% think that the correct procedures are in place to ensure that vulnerable patients are supported at home when recovering from a stay in hospital.
President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Clare Marx, said that too many frail and confused elderly patients were being sent home without the knowledge to use equipment, and were just being given a list of phone numbers and told to organise care themselves.
Ms Marx also pointed out that these failings seemed to be leading to a dramatic increase in the numbers of patients finding themselves back in hospital as an emergency admission. Figures produced by the NHS indicate a 27% rise in the numbers of patients having to be readmitted to hospital within a month of being discharged.
The latest figures available show 560,000 re-admissions into hospitals in England each year, which equates to 1 in 9 of those discharged being back in hospital within the month.
If the correct home support is lacking, people who have recently come home from hospital are more likely to suffer from infection, other complications or have a fall.
Only 26% of surgeons polled by the RCS felt that their hospitals had the right procedures in place to make sure there was the right care for patients leaving hospital. What’s more, just 41% of them thought that home carers were being given enough information about the needs of patients.
Unsurprisingly, according to the RCS, it is the most vulnerable patients who come off worst, and the situation is poorest at the weekends when there are less resources available. In the very worst cases, the RCS has been forced to intervene, and this includes the shocking case of a pensioner who was sent home on Christmas Eve and who had not been shown how to change his colostomy bag.
Doctors also felt that the least coordinated care was experienced by patients who had been moved between specialities while in hospital, by older patients and by those who did not have much home support from family or friends.
Over half of the surgeons surveyed thought that the situation would be improved by computerising patient records.
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