Southmead Hospital has apologised after a man was sent home in the middle of the night – then brought back because “there was an issue getting him up the stairs”.
The man was discharged from a ward for frail, elderly patients at “around midnight”, according to a community watchdog group.
Usual practice is to discharge patients no later than 8pm, Healthwatch South Gloucestershire spokesman Morgan Daly said.
Mr Daly said ambulance crew struggled to get the man up the stairs of his home so they brought him back to hospital. He was successfully discharged the following day, he said.
(Image: Copyright Unknown)
North Bristol NHS Trust did not answer the Local Democracy Reporting Service’s questions about the incident, citing patient confidentiality.
But Helen Blanchard, interim director of nursing at the trust, said: “When planning a patient’s discharge we work with the patient, their family, carers and our community providers to ensure all of the individual’s needs are met.
“We apologise to any patient who has been discharged at a later time than is appropriate.”
Mr Daly said Healthwatch was satisfied with the trust’s response when they raised the issue, and that it had told them that “discharge after 8pm is not usual”.
The case emerged after Healthwatch visited the Elgar House “reablement” unit at Southmead Hospital following concerns that patients were staying too long before discharge.
The man was one of three inpatients who agreed to be contacted after the visit in December last year so that Healthwatch could find out what had happened afterwards.
Elgar House is for people who are medically fit to leave hospital but who cannot return home until the social care support they need is in place. Patients are mostly frail and elderly and have complicated needs.
The unit was run by Sirona care and health until January 2018 when North Bristol NHS Trust took over.
“Since then we have continually seen a reduction in length of stay on the ward,” according to a trust spokesman.
The trust did not provide length of stay figures for the ward, when asked.
Ms Blanchard said: “In October 2018, we introduced an Integrated Care Bureau across the trust and have reduced the average time from referral to discharge by nearly 11 days.”
A Healthwatch report of its visit to Elgar House on December 12, 2018, found that: “Delays in patient discharge are already occurring.”
“Some of the patients that Healthwatch volunteers interviewed were clearly frustrated and agitated by the duration of their stay.”
The report also noted that the unit was clean, staff were “enthusiastic and dedicated”, and that improvements were expected after “new staff arrive in the New Year”.
The report was presented to South Gloucestershire Council’s health scrutiny committee on June 19.
Mr Daly is the chief executive of The Care Forum, which has provided Healthwatch for South Gloucestershire, Bristol, North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset since the community watchdog was created.