New NHS target aims to improve your experience of leaving hospital

The Government has published what it wants the NHS to deliver over the next 12 months, including a new target to reduce the delays people can face when leaving hospital.
Picture of a row of wheel chairs

The Department of Health has today published the updated NHS Mandate 2017-18, which sets out the Government’s aims for the NHS for the year ahead.

Included in the mandate is a new target to reduce to 3.5% the number of instances where a patient is ready to leave hospital for home, or another service, but is unable to do so.

Nationally and locally the Healthwatch network has shared with the NHS what people have said about why their discharge from hospital has gone wrong and the impact this is having.

With figures on delayed discharge from hospital continuing to rise, our Chair Jane Mordue welcomed the new target:

“Across England, patients have told their local Healthwatch about the impact that delays and gaps in support when leaving hospital can have on them and their family – concerns we raised with the Government when they asked us what should be in the NHS Mandate.

“Although hospitals, care homes and home care services are taking steps to get people home quickly and safely, the increased national focus on tackling this issue in the Mandate is good news for patients.

“With growing pressure on health and care services it is more important than ever that people are able to leave hospital with the support they need to get well and stay well, preventing unnecessary readmission to hospital.   

“If the new target makes this happen, it will help improve thousands of people’s experience of care and reduce the financial and human cost caused when discharge goes wrong.”

More good news for patients

Part of our role is to recommend changes to health and care services that will benefit people. We are a statutory consultee on the NHS Mandate, which means the Department of Health has to ask us each year about what should be included.

As well as sharing what people have told Healthwatch about their experiences of the discharge process, we also raised two other issues that have been included in the NHS mandate.

1. Involving communities in decisions that affect them

With health and care services being reformed to help make them more efficient and better at meeting people’s needs, we asked for the NHS to do more to involve communities in decisions that will affect them.

We are pleased that the Secretary of State has referred to this directly in his foreword, setting out his expectation that NHS England will support local leaders to work with their communities to drive real improvements in patient care and outcomes.

2. Improving the use of patient feedback

We also emphasised the need for services to continue to improve the way they use patient feedback. When care goes wrong and people have bad experiences, it’s vital that services put things right. But it’s just as important that they use complaints and other feedback to learn and improve.

It’s encouraging that the Department of Health has now asked NHS England to develop proposals for how complaints, whistleblowing and wider feedback can be used more effectively to support patients, their carers and staff, to drive up quality and improve patient safety in primary care and specialised commissioning.

We look forward to working very closely with NHS England on how this new programme will translate into actual learning from complaints on the frontline.

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