Hospital discharges - why the delays?
Why can it take so long for patients to be discharged from hospital? Over the last few months, my father has had a number of admissions to Princess Alexandra Hospital. On each occasion, following the decision to discharge him, the delay in making this happen has been extremely frustrating, despite his case not being particularly complex. There have been delays waiting for discharge letters to be written up / signed off and in discharge medication being provided. These delays are significantly worse if it is a weekend or bank holiday……the number of Doctors on site seems to drop dramatically. We have experienced ridiculous delays (twice resulting in him having to stay in hospital an extra night) because the doctors needed to sign the discharge summary were caught up with more urgent cases elsewhere in the hospital. The result is a crazy cycle whereby the patient gets increasingly frustrated, they & their carers keep bothering the nursing staff for updates. The nursing staff get involved with bleeping & chasing doctors and pacifying fed up patients and relatives (not exactly what they joined the nursing profession for I’m sure). Patients end up staying unnecessarily long in hospital, often needing to be fed, monitored & given an extra night’s B&B!! When we queried the delays with the nursing staff, the response was ‘that’s just how things are at the weekend’ & ‘everything comes to a standstill at the weekend’. How astonishing that this is the accepted norm! People get sick 24/7. There needs to be a system in place to deal with patients 24/7. Why should patients suffer delays to their discharge just because it’s a weekend & there are inadequate levels of staff on duty? Every week we read about bed pressures and the cuts being made to save money. A more effective system for discharging patients in a timely manner would save significant NHS (public) money….. We were certainly guilty of putting up with the long waits without complaining. We kept making excuses such as the ‘poor doctors are rushed off their feet’ or ‘the doctors are seeing much more urgent patients’ but listen up hospital managers – this is not good enough! You need to get the weekend cover to an adequate level to keep patients flowing through the system. No wonder beds get blocked! Half of them have patients waiting to be given their discharge letter & medications. The cynical amongst us might also wonder if keeping patients in beds longer means extra income to the hospital & that by keeping a ‘fit for discharge’ patient on the ward, prevents the bed being given to someone who actually needs a higher level of nursing / medical intervention….