DAUK in The Guardian: Cornwall hospital to discharge patients early despite saying it may be harmful

A major NHS hospital is under such pressure that it has decided to discharge people early even though it admits that patients may be harmed and doctors think the policy is unwise.

The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS trust has told staff to help it reduce the severe overcrowding it has been facing in recent weeks by discharging patients despite the risks involved.

In a memo sent on 8 January three trust bosses said that the Royal Cornwall hospital in Truro, which is also known as Treliske hospital and has the county’s only A&E department, “has been under significant pressure for the last two weeks and it is vital that we are able to see and admit our acutely unwell patients through our emergency department and on to our wards”.

It had agreed a plan to relieve pressure with unnamed “health and social care partners” after discussing “ a number of possible mitigations”.

The memo added: “One of these mitigations was to look at the level of risk that clinicians are taking when discharging patients from Treliske hospital either to home or to community services, recognising that this may be earlier than some clinicians would like and may cause a level of concern.

“It was agreed, however, that this would be a proportionate risk that we as a health community were prepared to take on the understanding that there is a possibility that some of these patients will be readmitted or possibly come to harm.”

The message was signed by Dr Allister Grant, the trust’s medical director, Kim O’Keeffe, its director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals and Susan Bracefield, its director of operations.

One doctor at the Royal Cornwall said it gets so busy that medics sometimes have to examine patients who are lying on trolleys in the A&E unit, which compromises their privacy. “There is only one outdated hospital in Cornwall. It simply cannot cope anymore.

“In A&E there are many patients lying on trollies and I am forced to examine and clerk on those trollies as there is simply not enough cubicles.

“There is a heavy workload at the moment. There are always red gaps on the rota. There is absolutely a privacy issue here, I discuss what happened to them and plans in front of many other people.”

Dr Rinesh Parmar, Chair of the Doctors’ Association UK and an intensive care doctor, said: “This is morally repugnant and against the very fibre of what doctors stand for. We care for our patients and respect their dignity, not simply dispatching them early into the community to already over stretched struggling services. Our patients deserve better than these short-sighted ploys to generate beds at the expense of their health.”

Read the full article by Denis Campbell in The Guardian: