THE majority of patients in Worcestershire hospitals are not being sent home in the middle of the night, despite national figures showing hundreds of thousands of elderly and vulnerable people were being discharged outside normal hours.
Figures revealed by Sky News this week showed more than 300,000 people had been discharged from hospitals in the UK between 11pm and 6am – about 400 a night – since 2012, despite NHS bosses pledging to cut down on the practice.
But Stewart Messer, chief operating officer of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust – which runs Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Kidderminster Hospital and Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital – said the organisation’s policy was not to discharge patients after 8pm.
“This ensures that patient safety remains paramount and that patients are only be discharged when they are medically fit and it is appropriate and safe to do so,” he said.
“We monitor our discharges on a daily basis.
“On average, 75 per cent of discharges occur before 5pm.
“Where patients return home out of hours, they are generally those who have been seen in our surgical and medical assessment units after being brought in as emergencies and who are medically fit to leave.
“Whatever time a patient is discharged, every attempt is made to ensure that they have the means to get home safely.”
The figures have led to concerns over the impact on elderly and vulnerable people of being sent home in the middle of the night as well as the possibility of paperwork going missing due to shift changeovers.
In 2012 NHS England’s medical director Sir Bruce Keogh called on hospitals to cut down on the practice.
"Patients should only be discharged when it's clinically appropriate, safe and convenient for them and their families,” he said.
''It is simply not fair to be sending people home late at night. We will look at this."
An NHS England spokesman described the practice as “unacceptable”.
"Where a patient wishes to leave late at night or early in the morning, it should be accommodated only where it is safe and clinically appropriate and with the support of family, friends or carers,” he said.
“The decision to do this should always be based on what is best for the patient."