A report has highlighted the problem of people with dementia being sent home from hospital at unsafe or inappropriate times.

Going into hospital when you have dementia can be a very traumatic time, but this is often worsened if the person is then discharged without ensuring that they are ready, able and have the right support available to them when they leave. And unfortunately, this has become a big issue.

A report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) today has found that the consequences of discharging people from hospital in an unsafe way can be devastating.

They found that people were being sent home afraid and with very little support. They put it down to poor planning, co-ordination and communication between hospital staff and health and social care services.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said:

‘Health and social care leaders must work harder to uncover why 10 years of guidance to prevent unsafe discharge is not being followed, causing misery and distress for patients, families and carers.’

The Department of Health has responded by saying the failings were unacceptable and it would ensure “lessons are learnt”.

The main issues identified by the PHSO were:

- Patients being discharged before they are clinically ready to leave hospital.
- Patients not being assessed or consulted properly before their discharge.
- Relatives and carers not being told that their loved one has been discharged.
- Patients being discharged with no home-care plan in place or being kept in hospital due to poor co-ordination across services.

This follows on from the Alzheimer’s Society Fix Dementia Care Campaign, which was launched earlier this year, and which called for improvements in hospital discharge protocol for people with dementia.

Of the people they spoke to for their campaign report, 4,926 people with dementia were inappropriately discharged at night (between the hours of 11pm and 6am).

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

‘The shocking findings of this report only serve to compound the evidence that people are not receiving adequate support when they are discharged from hospital. We know from the findings of our Fix Dementia Care investigation that too many people with dementia are being discharged at night, which is unsafe, disorientating and distressing. It also increases the likelihood of them leaving without relevant information, the correct medication or the right support in place because staff are not on duty to discharge them properly.

‘All hospitals should have a discharge policy that takes the needs of people with dementia into account. People should be assigned a discharge co-ordinator who ensures they have a health and social care assessment, and that an appropriate support package is put in place to meet the needs of the person with dementia and their carer. The date and time of discharge should be discussed and arranged with the person and their carer with at least 24 hours’ notice, along with transport to their home or care home.

‘Substandard care and poor hospital discharge can fundamentally change the lives of people with dementia and their families for the worse. By combining good community support from Dementia Advisers with sensible hospital discharge procedures, we can avoid lives being needlessly placed at risk. It’s vital that we get this right.’

Source: Alzheimer's Society