Cornwall early-discharge patients may 'come to harm'

Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust memo Image copyright RCHT
Image caption The memo said some patients would be sent home "earlier than some clinicians would like"

Hospital bosses in Cornwall have admitted some patients may come to harm if discharged early under plans to ease "significant pressure" on services.

In an internal memo seen by the BBC, senior Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust staff said they were being forced to take action to tackle the problem.

They admit discharging patients "earlier than some clinicians would like" is being considered.

The trust said clinicians were being encouraged to use community services.

Image caption The Royal Cornwall Hospital had seen "significant pressure" on its emergency department

The Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske, Truro, recently turned away people with minor injuries, while patients faced up to a 12-hour wait in the emergency department for beds.

The memo said it was "vital" staff could "see and admit our acutely unwell patients through our emergency department and onto our wards" and they discussed possible mitigations.

It said one mitigation was looking at levels of risk clinicians took when discharging patients, either to home or to community services, and how an early discharge "may cause a level of concern".

But it added early discharges "would be a proportionate risk that we as a health community were prepared to take, on the understanding that there is a possibility that some of these patients will be readmitted or possibly come to harm".

The memo added clinicians could also manage patients that needed another check through the likes of "a blood test or a quick review the following day".

Trust chief executive Kate Shields said the memo was in response to the hospital getting "very full" and not being "the answer for everything".

Medical Director Allister Grant added: "There are services in the community which will help to keep them safe but not all of our clinicians have been using them. We're encouraging them to do so."

He said the come-to-harm comment was prompted because "a lot of patients are elderly and frail and we just can't guarantee their safety when they get home", but that was "not as a direct result of discharging them [a day or two] earlier".

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