A new report from Healthwatch East Sussex reveals that four out of five of patients discharged from local hospitals last winter reported a positive experience, but there were some aspects of discharge that could be developed and improved.
1,441 wellbeing checks were undertaken by Healthwatch volunteers and staff with patients discharged from hospital by telephone between August and November 2020.
We found that:
- 85% of discharged patients made favourable comments about their hospital stay and praised the professionalism, responsiveness and caring attitude of staff.
- Those with a support need who required assistance were signposted and referred to GPs, Community Hubs and other organisations.
- Communication with patients was the most common issue raised.
- Feedback from discharged patients highlighted the positive value attributed to follow-up checks, irrespective of support needs.
- Healthwatch will work with commissioners to understand and develop the hospital discharge process moving forwards.
Our report identifies 11 recommendations for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust who run the hospitals that patients were discharged from, NHS Commissioners who contract local GPs and Healthwatch. The focus of these is embedding the learning with a view to improving the experience for patients before, during and after discharge.
John Routledge, the Healthwatch East Sussex Director, said
‘Our local hospitals and wider health and care services did a fantastic job in coping with the impact of the pandemic and lockdown last winter.
The hospital discharge process was largely successful but there is learning from our report that can help make this even better as we go into another winter with high levels of COVID persisting.’
Although we are no longer in a lockdown, our local hospitals are still experiencing extremely high levels of demand. Our findings and recommendations are aimed at helping to inform planning for hospital discharges and wider health and care planning this winter. We are calling for:
- improved communication, both between hospital staff and patients, but also after discharge between the hospital and other providers, especially GPs.
- a review of the information provided to patients prior to discharge, particularly how and when it is communicated to patients, with an emphasis on making it clear, uniform for all, in plain English and in a format that people can refer to after they leave hospital.
- patients to be provided with additional guidance where ongoing management of their condition is required.
- all patients to be given clear guidance on who to seek support from after discharge and when to seek it, not only from health services, but also from community and voluntary initiatives.
- the learning from this research and other parallel work to be reviewed before further development of the hospital discharge process is undertaken.
This report has been shared with Sussex NHS Commissioners who commissioned the project to explore discharge experiences and where appropriate offer them reassurance, information and signposting, and East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT) who run the Conquest and Eastbourne District General Hospital.
Jessica Britton, Executive Managing Director of the East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who commissioned the project commented:
“The Healthwatch East Sussex hospital discharge and wellbeing checks pilot that was carried out in 2020 gave reassurance to patients discharged from hospital, including sign-posting people to relevant services.
This pilot provided additional support to our local hospitals’ discharge processes between August and November 2020 at an extremely challenging period in the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The outcome of the pilot provided valuable insight and learning which is helping the local NHS to further improve people’s experience of being discharged from hospital and settling back at home with the support they need.”
As the public champion for local health and care services, Healthwatch East Sussex will continue to work in partnership with commissioners and providers to monitor the experiences of patients and the public in accessing health and care services locally and explore how ongoing development may be delivered.