Hospitals must cease irresponsible practice of sending patients home in middle of the night
This week the news broke that hospitals are sending patients home in the middle of the night, a practice it is claimed is to 'free up hospital beds' (The Telegraph).
Figures obtained from NHS trusts show that up to 400,000 patients were discharged from hospital wards between 11pm and 6am across the country last year.
The Patients Association has called the situation 'unacceptable' with chief executive Katherine Murphy stating it is vital that action is taken to ensure the practice does not become more commonplace.
The discharging of vulnerable patients in the middle of the night is a big cause for concern to us as clinical negligence solicitors, as it can pose a very real threat to their safety. Some of these patients require care and support in the home and discharging them in the dead of the night means this may not be readily available.
Vulnerable patients need to be given the chance to make proper arrangements for their care needs, which clearly is not going to be easy at 3 o'clock in the morning. Some may be left with no choice but to make their way home alone, where they can then be at risk of serious injury.
Furthermore, if hospitals rush to remove a patient from a ward in the middle of the night, there is a greater risk that person will not be ready. Withdrawing treatment from a person who needs it can have devastating consequences, as the Clinical Negligence team at JMW has seen.
Hospitals must play fair and avoid the attitude that their responsibility to patients ends as soon as they believe they are well enough to go home. Decisions to send a patient home must be made in their best interests only and we welcome the government investigation into this irresponsible practice.