Emergency readmissions: What's changed one year on?

New research indicates spike in emergency readmissions to hospital over the last year. Our report calls on NHS to fix the data gaps to help understand why.
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Over the last three years, the Healthwatch network has looked extensively at people’s experiences, as they move between hospitals and care in the community. We have explored what happens when services don’t work well together and what lessons can be learnt for the future.

A consistent theme we hear about is the distress people who need to return to hospital experience following complications which could have been avoided with better communication, planning and support.

In October 2017 we published a briefing looking at the scale of the issue. One year on, we’ve taken another look to find out if anything has changed.

Key findings

  • In the last year, the number of emergency readmissions grew by 9%, which is significantly faster than at any other point over the previous five years. The current lack of detailed data means that we do not know if this is good or bad for patients.
  • The proportion of emergency readmissions where someone has returned to hospital within just one day of being discharged has risen even more, increasing by 15% year-on-year.
  • Most troubling is that the sector still can’t report on how many emergency readmissions were unavoidable and which ones could be prevented, or use this insight to learn.
  • We were initially concerned that the increased focus on reducing delayed transfers of care (DToC) might result in people being discharged unsafely. However, our new data shows no correlation between DToC reductions and rising emergency readmissions. This is good news as it means the NHS and social care are getting people home both quickly and safely.


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