Lib Dem concerns over late night hospital discharges

hospital bed It is sometimes appropriate to discharge a patient at night if it is safe to do so, ministers say

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Nearly 20,000 patients have been discharged from Welsh hospitals late at night over the last two years.

Liberal Democrat research shows that 19,702 patients left hospital between 11pm and 6am since 2012, with the party concerned people are discharged "without any good reason".

The figures are for inpatients admitted for treatment, not A&E patients.

Welsh ministers said there were "valid reasons" for the "vast majority" of night discharges.

Local health boards in Wales do not record the reasons why patients have been discharged.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams called on the Welsh government to make it compulsory.

"We're concerned that such a large number of people seemingly are being discharged from hospital overnight without any good reason for that happening, at least no reasons being recorded," she said.

"We're asking the Welsh government to ensure that in the future that any patient leaving hospital between the hours of 11pm and 6am they're actually recorded and the reasons for that discharge are recorded as well."

"I'm concerned that these [discharge] figures maybe are a reflection of the pressures that we have in the entire hospital system because of a lack of beds but we simply don't know," Ms Williams added.

Official government figures show there has been a 19% reduction in the number of hospital beds in Wales between 2003 and 2013 - accounting for 2,770 beds.

'Dynamics'
Beds Welsh NHS bed numbers continue to fall

Concerns have also been raised by a body that represents the interest of patients, but it says more information is needed.

Dr Paul Worthington, Chief Officer of Cwm Taf Community Health Council said: "Patients should never be discharged from hospital unless it's clinically safe, clinically appropriate and also convenient for patients.

"The numbers are high... so I think that does flag a legitimate question to say: are all these discharges appropriate? Are they clinically safe?

"But... I think the devil really is in the detail; we need to understand the dynamics of those figures."

A Welsh government spokesman responded: "Out of the more than 760,000 people discharged from Welsh hospitals last year (2012/13), only a very small percentage of these left at night.

"The vast majority of these will have valid reasons to do so, with their transfer of care to the community planned by clinicians and family working together.

"Sometimes it is actually appropriate to discharge a patient at night if it is safe to do so and if this is the wish of the patient and their family."

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