Ipswich: Shock over patients’ exits during middle of the night

THOUSANDS of patients have been recorded as being sent home from Ipswich Hospital in the middle of the night, new figures have revealed.

While the statistics released by the trust show from 2008 to 2011 9,558 patients were discharged between 11pm and 6am, health bosses today moved to explain the number as Ipswich MP Ben Gummer branded the figures “concerning”.

Released under the Freedom of Information Act the figures show in 2011/12 of 78,408 discharges at Heath Road, 2,103 were recorded as overnight discharges – equating to 2.7 per cent of all discharges.

Catherine Morgan, associate director of nursing at the trust said while the data is correct it does not reflect the “true picture”.

She said the “majority” of the cases are patients who are discharged before 11pm but due to nurses working on the wards they are not electronically entered as discharged on the system until after that time.

Mrs Morgan said true overnight discharges are cases where patients are allowed to go home because they have asked to and are deemed fit to do so.

“We will be looking at other ways of looking at recording discharges,” she said. “It is something we need to work on to get an actual time of discharge recorded, rather than the time it is input to the system.

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“It is a challenge because it is asking nurses to do an administrative role when their primary goal is the care of patients.”

Mr Gummer said he would be urging Ipswich Hospital chief executive Andrew Reed to look into the issue of how these figures are recorded.

“On the face of it these figures are concerning,” he said. “I am sure the hospital will want to look closely at how it records discharges so that we can get a grasp of the real figure, especially among vulnerable and elderly patients.”

Hospital spokeswoman Jan Ingle added that patients are only discharged if deemed clinically fit.

She said in very rare cases of serious emergency a patient who was due to be discharged the following morning, and who was happy to be discharged, may be allowed to go home if there was a pressure on beds.

Otherwise Mrs Ingle said there has not been an instance when a patient has been discharged because of pressures on bed numbers.

Of the 100 hospitals who responded to the FOI request, the figures revealed on average 3.5pc of discharges happened overnight.

n What do you think? Write to health reporter Lizzie Parry at Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail lizzie.parry@archant.co.uk