Patients raise concerns over hospital discharge

A national Healthwatch report (which includes local insight from Sefton), highlights how patients are grateful to hard-working doctors, nurses and care staff for continuing to deliver compassionate care in difficult circumstances. This work was supported by the British Red Cross.

But an investigation into hospital discharge processes shows the majority of patients (82%) surveyed nationally did not receive recommended follow-up visits after discharge.

Patients felt unready to leave hospital and missed out on vital follow-up visits and assessments according to new Healthwatch and British Red Cross research into hospital discharge arrangements during the first five months of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the investigation did also uncover a number of positives including increased collaboration between services and positive feedback from the public for healthcare staff working under pressure.

As part of this national review, Healthwatch Sefton carried out work to better understand the impact of emergency measures implemented earlier this year to free up beds for COVID-19 patients.

Healthwatch Sefton carried out eight in-depth interviews with key staff involved in the discharge process in the Sefton area, working as part of the Southport & Formby health and care system.

Alongside this, more than 500 patients and carers across England took part in a national survey which gathered people’s experiences from late March to late August.

Some of the key findings included:

  • 82% of respondents did not receive a follow-up visit and assessment at home, one of the key recommendations of the policy
  • Some people felt their discharge was rushed, with around one in five (19%) feeling unprepared to leave hospital
  • Over a third (35%) of respondents and their carers did not get a contact for further advice, despite this being a recommendation
  • Overall patients and families were very positive about healthcare staff, praising their efforts during such a difficult time

Healthwatch Sefton Manager, Diane Blair, said: “Being involved in this national review was a challenge in terms of the number of in-depth interviews we had to undertake in a short space of time but in listening to the local experiences of professionals from a number of different perspectives we learnt a lot about how the system has been working and suggestions for how we could improve local services for the future. We spoke with Southport & Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust, care home managers, community providers, a social worker and a GP. ”

As a result of the findings, recommendations from Healthwatch and the British Red Cross were given to help manage a second wave of COVID-19 hospital admissions.

Sir Robert Francis QC, Chair of Healthwatch England, said:In March, hospitals were asked to discharge patients with little or no notice and the speed with which this took place was important but led to mistakes. We do not want to detract from the heroic efforts of those on the frontline, who often put themselves at great risk to care for their patients, but services and system leaders have now had more time to prepare.

“It’s essential we learn from what people have shared with us about the impact a poorly-handled discharge can have on them and their loved ones. Taking action now will not only reduce the risk to patients but will also help improve the way people leave hospital in the future.”

Read the full report on the Healthwatch Sefton website, via