St Mary's Hospital, Isle of Wight. Picture by Jennifer Burton.
A WATCHDOG is pressing for greater communication between St Mary’s Hospital and care homes after a report found elderly patients were being discharged in the middle of the night.
The Isle of Wight Local Involvement Network (LINk) launched its investigation after reports hospital patients had been sent home in the middle of the night, sometimes without proper clothes, shoes or means of getting home.
Out of 89 care homes contacted by the watchdog, 20 recently had residents discharged from hospital at night with times ranging from between 6pm and 4.30am.
According to the report, the average time between patient discharge and their returning home was 74 minutes, though it ranged from 15 minutes to three-and-a-half hours. Six said dignity was not maintained when they were discharged.
The average notice given to care homes of a resident’s discharge was 77 minutes, though two reported they had no notice at all.
Six thought a resident had been discharged too soon, while many felt the discharge was rushed and two homes felt they were pressured into taking their residents back.
Concerns were also raised around some daytime discharges, including one home which had received residents back with catheters "hanging down," and others who were wet because they had waited so long for transport home and no-one had supported them to go to the toilet.
Three homes said residents had been discharged without blankets and were shivering while one care home said ambulance crews had delivered residents to the wrong home on two occasions.
The LINk also identified a number of positive steps already taken by health bosses including extra awareness and dignity training for staff, keeping a small supply of clothes for discharge and providing a sock type slipper.
Meanwhile, a new emergency discharge form must be filled out before patients can be discharged, which the LINk said countered many of the issues raised in the report.
The probe, which centred on late night discharges of elderly patients to care homes, has made four recommendations:
• The Isle of Wight NHS Trust shares with all patients and carers the quality standards they should expect when being discharged.
• Isle of Wight NHS gives at least two hours notice to care homes that a resident is being discharged.
• There is greater communication from the hospital and ambulance staff to residential care homes with regard to the wellbeing of the resident returning homes.
• A reduction in time between patient discharge and their returning home is achieved.
The findings will be discussed at the Isle of Wight Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Panel on February 4.