Ombudsman raises concerns over early hospital discharges

28 Oct 14
The health service ombudsman has said she is increasingly concerned about patients being discharged from hospital when they are not ready to go home.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor today published summaries of 161 investigations carried out between April and June. Of these, 126 related to health services and 35 to problems with UK government departments, such as the Child Maintenance Service.

Among the NHS problems highlighted were incorrect discharge from hospital. The ombudsman drew attention to two cases where patients had been sent home from accident and emergency despite serious health problems. Failure to correctly diagnose and treat cancer was also deemed a concern.

Mellor said: ‘These investigations highlight the devastating impact failures in public services can have on the lives of individuals and their families.

‘A shocking case that stood out was that of a one-day-old baby who suffered permanent brain damage at Barts Health NHS Trust in London because a nurse and two doctors made serious mistakes during a blood transfusion.

‘We are increasingly concerned about patients being discharged unsafely from hospital. Unplanned admissions and readmissions are a massive cost to the NHS.’

In terms of problems with central government agencies, the ombudsman drew attention to the case of a woman who attempted suicide because of seven years of poor case handling by the Child Support Agency (now the Child Maintenance Service).

Mellor said that the ombudsman’s office was publishing summaries to boost public confidence in the post’s ability to take action.

‘We also want to provide valuable lessons for public services, and show how complaining makes a positive difference to them,’ she added.

Case summaries can be viewed here.

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