Hospital discharge for older people needs to improve

A report from the National Audit Office published today has found that the way older patients are discharged from hospital does not represent value for money. Read our response.

‘Discharging older patients from hospital’ estimates that the total cost to the NHS of treating older patients in hospital who no longer need to receive acute clinical care is in the region of £820 million a year.

The report also found that, while steps to rectify the situation have been made, an ageing population and older people being admitted to hospital means there needs to be a step change in performance to resolve the problem.

Responding to the publication Jane Mordue, Interim Chair of Healthwatch England, said:

“In our investigation into unsafe discharge last year, we found that poor co-ordination of health and social care services is resulting in too many elderly people being discharged inappropriately, causing suffering to them and their loved ones. The NAO’s report has laid bare the scale of the issue, as well as the financial implications this has for the NHS.

“The fact that over half of hospitals admit they don't start discharge planning early enough is a situation that nobody working in health and care can or should accept. Patients tell us that from the moment they are admitted they want the NHS and social care teams to start planning how to get them home safe.

“We know from the work of local Healthwatch that this is what the best teams already do, but we want to see this replicated across the board, ensuring that everyone experiences a safe and timely discharge.

“We are pleased that the Department of Health is now using this evidence to coordinate a shared response across health and social care providers to ensure that the issue is tackled at every level. Local Healthwatch, who operate across both health and social care, are well placed and ready to help."

In 2015, we published ‘Safely home: What happens when people leave hospital and care settings?’. The report drew on stories from more than 3,200 people about their experiences of discharge in the context of older age, mental health conditions or homelessness.

Find out more

Find out more in the new report from the National Audit Office 'Discharging older patients from hospital'.

Read the report