Elderly getting hospital discharged before being medically fit: NHS watchdog

Many patients are being discharged from hospital before they are medically fit to leave or ready to cope at home, a new report from an NHS watchdog has revealed.

Some are sent home "alone and afraid", while relatives and care givers are not always being informed when the patients are discharged.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), cited "harrowing" examples of people being "badly let down by the system" in its report.

A woman in her late '90s died moments after she was dropped off at home after she was discharged without being properly examined.

The PHSO also found that doctors failed to treat sepsis in a patient, which led to his death after discharge.

"Our investigations have found that some of the most vulnerable patients, including frail and older people, are enduring harrowing ordeals when they leave hospital," said the PHSO's Julie Mellor.

"Poor planning, co-ordination and communication between hospital staff and between health and social care services are failing patients, compromising their  safety and dignity.

"Health and social care leaders must work harder to uncover why ten years of guidance to prevent unsafe discharge is not being followed, causing misery and  distress for patients, families and carers."

According to the report, hospitals were 'inadvertently' moving the elderly out too soon due to the pressure to free up beds and meet targets.

Health authorites are cracking down on so-called bed-blocking or delayed transfers of care, where patients stayed back despite being medically fit to be discharged.

A number of reports had earlier exposed the  shocking NHS treatment of the elderly. Efforts to improve standards had intensified after the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal, in which hundreds died of neglect up to 2009.

However, according to the Ombudsman, the numerous guidelines intended to ensure improvement had had little effect.

Age UK's Caroline Abrahams said, "Most people would assume that in a civilised society no older person would ever be pressured to leave hospital without adequate support in place.''