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Discharge guidance could lead to increased death and disability, warn senior clinicians

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Serious patient safety and wellbeing concerns about the latest hospital discharge guidance have been raised to HSJ by senior clinicians and charities.

Senior geriatricians warned that the guidance could prompt an increase in “urgent readmissions”, “permanent disability” and “excess mortality”, while charities said families could be left with “unsustainable caring responsibilities” because of the new rules.

The government guidance, Hospital Discharge Service: policy and operating model, published in August, said clinicians should consider discharging patients when they were “medically optimised” rather than “medically fit”. It said 95% of these patients would return straight home with additional social care and rehabilitation support if needed.

Many of the concerns raised surround the retention of the “criteria to reside”. This was originally agreed in March when there was a push from NHS England to free up acute beds over fears hospitals would become overwhelmed with covid admissions as the pandemic hit the UK. The criteria has, however, been maintained in the new guidance, despite a significant fall in infections and deaths from the virus.

Rachel Power, chief executive of The Patients Association charity, warned: “This guidance makes it clear that the NHS is still having to take drastic emergency action in the face of covid-19, that will continue to take a heavy toll on patients. It is clear that many patients will be rushed home who would normally have had a longer period of hospital care.”

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Source: HSJ, 8 September 2020

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