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NHS steps up a gear to get people home for Christmas

22/12/14
  • Discharge rates from hospitals rocket over the festive period
  • Staff spend more time working with patients around discharge planning
  • If NHS did this all year round hospitals could free up more than 50,000 bed days

We have found that people waiting to leave hospital are discharged more quickly and efficiently in the run up to Christmas than at any other time of year.

Official stats for the number of ‘delayed transfers of care’ fell 13 per cent between November and December last year, with the festive period consistently recording the lowest number of delayed discharges over the last five years.

Line graph of Christmas discharge stats showing a dip in delayed transfers of care by 13% between November and December 2013

Evidence collected during our special inquiry into the discharge process suggests that good discharge is down to staff listening more to their patients, planning early and coordinating across services.

When the NHS and care services get their act together and do this at Christmas time the impact is clear.  

Our analysis suggests that if the NHS and care services put the same focus on discharge planning all year around 6,000 fewer patients would experience delays getting home, freeing up more than 50,000 bed days and saving over £14 million.

Our Chair, Anna Bradley, said:

“It’s great to see doctors, nurses and care workers all striving to give their patients what they want most at Christmas time, which is to be at home with their family and friends.

“But this shouldn’t just be a Christmas tradition. We want to see staff working with patients to start planning how and when they are going to leave hospital from the moment they arrive.

“The numbers show that it’s possible, and long term would free up beds, save money and ensure thousands of patients aren’t left frustrated and stuck in hospital waiting to leave.”

However, as we enter Christmas week, it is important to remember that getting people home quickly isn’t the only priority. To avoid a potential spike in emergency readmissions early in the New Year, hospitals must remain vigilant and ensure everyone is discharged safely and with the right support in place to enable a speedy recovery.   

Earlier this year we launched our first ever special inquiry to find out why things so often go wrong when people are discharged from health and social care institutions.

Focusing on three particularly vulnerable groups - the homeless, those with mental health conditions and the elderly – this inquiry aims to put forward recommendations to ensure everyone has the support they need when they leave a hospital or another health and care setting.

The inquiry is ongoing and will report on its findings next year.

For more information please contact Jacob Lant, Media Manager at Healthwatch England, on 020 7972 8036 / 07768 648 128 / Jacob.lant@healthwatch.co.uk

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