Call to End Late-Night Discharges

The Liberal Democrats have called for an end to late-night hospital discharges after figures showed thousands of elderly people may have been sent home in the middle of the night.

More than 7,000 patients over the age of 65 appear to have been discharged from hospital between 9pm and 9am last year, according to records obtained by the party through freedom of information (FOI) legislation.

The figures show 2,641 of these patients were over the age of 80.

Health boards point out the numbers are likely to be artificially inflated as hospital systems record the time the data was entered into the system rather than the time the patient was discharged.

But Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume MSP said it was concerning that discharge times were not being recorded accurately.

He highlighted figures from NHS Grampian showing that 953 patients over the age of 80, and 2,513 patients over the age of 65, were recorded as being discharged overnight.

The health board said staff did not necessarily update the system at the time of discharge as caring for patients took precedence and the details are more likely to be entered at a later, more convenient time.

A spokeswoman said: "The figures are therefore likely to be artificially high and do not give an accurate reflection of time of discharge.

"An inpatient is only discharged when it is clinically appropriate and following discussion with either them or their family.''

NHS Fife, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire cited similar practices in their response to the FOI request.

Mr Hume said: "It's concerning that the patient records system means so many health boards are unable to provide clarity over the true scale of late night discharges. This is unacceptable and prevents hospitals from providing the highest standard of care to patients.

"In some cases patients may have self-discharged or staff may have updated their record in the quieter times in the evenings.

"However I don't believe that a single older patient should have to face returning home from hospital in the early hours of the morning.

"That is why I want to see action taken to rule against the practice of late night discharges for inpatients.''

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