A new report from Healthwatch Gloucestershire highlights that while hospital care in Gloucestershire is generally regarded as good, people’s experiences of being discharged from hospital and moved between services for their ongoing health and social care needs, can be confusing, disjointed and stressful.
Healthwatch Gloucestershire often hears about people’s concerns when they or their loved ones are moved between health and care services, so they wanted to understand how this could be improved.
In spring 2021, they heard in-depth from 11 patients and carers about their experiences of being discharged and transferred from Cheltenham General Hospital, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Stroud District Hospital and Lydney Community Hospital.
Although care for patients in hospital was considered to be good, several areas for improvement were identified with the discharge and transfer process. Healthwatch Gloucestershire has shared its findings and recommendations with Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, to inform service improvements.
- Carers should be involved in the discharge planning process.
- Patients should be kept informed about their discharge, including any delays.
- Transport home or between services should be planned and appropriate to the patients’ needs.
Transferring to other services for ongoing care
- Patients’ care needs after hospital discharge should be fully met.
- Patients and carers/relatives should be given sufficient information about ongoing health and social care, including how to manage while waiting for referrals to other services.
- Patients should be provided with contact information for any service they are being referred to, and they should be informed about expected referral waiting times.
- Patients and their carers and relatives should be provided with information about Continuing Healthcare Funding and how to access this if appropriate.
In the Healthwatch Gloucestershire report Derek* shares the story of his father’s discharge from Cheltenham General Hospital to Lydney Community Hospital, and then to Leckhampton Court Hospice, where sadly he died in August 2020: “The care received within the hospitals was good, however the process of discharge and care packaging was poor. I feel we should have been involved more in the process, there were no conversations with the hospital unless we initiated them. One of the issues is finding out what you are entitled to… If people are not communicated to in time of personal crisis and told what their rights are, they are not going to easily find out. The NHS and Gloucestershire County Council really needs to sit up a take notice of what the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman are saying in their Continuing Healthcare Report. I know that many MPs have described NHS Continuing Healthcare as the best kept secret in the NHS. This is certainly true.”
(*Not his real name.)
George Soars, who led the engagement project for Healthwatch Gloucestershire, said: “Being discharged from hospital with continuing healthcare needs can be stressful for patients and for those who will be caring for them or coordinating the health and care that will be provided for them by other services. If ongoing care is well planned, supported, and clearly communicated to everyone involved, this can help alleviate anxiety and improve health outcomes. Thanks to everyone who shared their story with us to help raise awareness about the issued involved. Thanks also to staff at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust for their collaboration and support; we look forward to continuing our work together to improve hospitals discharge and service transitions.”
Professor Steve Hams, Director of Quality and Chief Nurse, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust welcomed the report: “It is really important to us that we continually listen to the experiences of people using our services so we can identify areas of improvement…The recommendations highlight that there are more opportunities for us to work with our patients and community partners to make a real difference to their experiences, and we will develop our response to each of these recommendations into an action plan.”
John Trevains, Director of Nursing, Therapies & Quality, Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, commented: “Being discharged from hospital has the potential to be a worrying time for our patients and their families and carers, and so we are keen to utilise this feedback in order to improve people’s experiences…The recommendations chime with our Trust’s quality ambitions and we will ensure that these important areas are addressed in order to continuously improve the care and support that we provide to our patients and their carers.”
Sarah Jeeves, Clinical Manager Continuing Healthcare, and Debbie Sanders, Head of Adult Continuing Healthcare, with Gloucestershire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Gloucestershire CCG recognises that Continuing Healthcare (CHC) can be seen as a complex process. The CCG is committed to raising the profile of CHC across the county, and is continuing to work with all agencies, individuals and their families to provide information and training. The CCG’s website has been updated and contains written information, including links to the National Framework for CHC and the relevant documents.”
Read the full Healthwatch Gloucestershire report, Hospital discharge in Gloucestershire: local people’s experiences
You can share your feedback about the hospital discharge process, transition between services, or any other aspect of health and social care in Gloucestershire via our webpage, by phone: 01452 504989 or 0800 652 5193 (freephone), or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.