Healthwatch research shows mixed experiences of hospital discharge experiences during the pandemic
Between February and April 2021 Healthwatch ran a short web-based survey to understand how the hospital discharge process was functioning during the third national ‘COVID-19’ lockdown.
We focused our questions on capturing feedback living in East Sussex on four themes:
- Positive aspects of the experience and those people felt could be improved?
- Whether people received all the information and support they needed?
- If people had any outstanding concerns?
- Anything people still needed help or support with?
Of the 36 people completing our survey:
- Nearly half (17 – 47%) felt that their expectations were not met in relation to the information they were given about their health condition and treatment whilst in hospita
- Fewer than half (16 – 44%) had received a hospital discharge letter, and nearly a quarter (22.2%) had received no documents or any other these pieces of information at the point of discharge
- Two-fifths (15 – 41.7%) did not receive any information on how to access non-medical support and information, and approximately a third (13 – 36.1%) did not receive any information on how to manage symptoms or physical conditions, or details of who to contact in a medical emergency (12 – 33.3%).
- More than a fifth indicated that their expectations had not been met in relation to receiving a follow-up hospital appointment (9 – 25.0%), follow-up GP appointment (9 – 25.0%) or a diagnosis or test results (8 – 22.2%).
- Half (19 – 53%) indicated that they felt ready to leave hospital at the point they were discharged. However, a quarter (9 – 25%) did not.
- Half (18 – 50%) identified that they had an ongoing need health, care or wellbeing need and 5 (14%) indicated no further concerns.
- Approximately half (19 – 52.8%) had contact with their GP after their discharge, with 84% of these interactions being initiated by patients and 16% by GPs.
- A majority (22 – 61%) were able to get enough food and day-to-day essentials after discharge.
On the basis of these findings, we are providing four main recommendations:
- all patients should receive a hard copy of their discharge letter and this should include details of a patient’s treatment, post-discharge requirements and any next steps. This should be written in plain English and in a form that patients and carers can understand and refer back to.
- written guidance on medication (including self-medicating), pain management and appropriate self-care advice (do’s and don’ts) should be given to patients, so that they and their carers are clear on the actions they need to take to minimise the risk of negative outcomes.
- hospital discharge is undertaken in a dedicated transaction, with the same core set of information provided to all patients. This should include as minimum, clear guidance as to who the first port-of-call should be for any issues that arise linked to their hospitalisation.
- patients are provided with the details of the community and voluntary sector support available, and that this should be more comprehensive than a list of contact information, ideally itemising the types of support offered and eligibility for them.