Patient safety

01.06.18

Number of patients readmitted to hospital rises by a fifth due to ‘preventable’ conditions

Patients are being increasingly readmitted to hospital as patients with ‘preventable’ conditions such as pressure sores and pneumonia, prompting concerns about the quality of patient care and discharge systems in the NHS.

Research released by the Nuffield Trust and medical charity the Health Foundation found the number of readmissions increased from 1.6 million in 2010-11 to 1.38 million in 2016-17, a rise of 19.2%.

Emergency readmissions were defined as patients that were admitted to hospital within 30 days of discharge; only ordinary cases were included, such as overnight stays. The research excluded day cases, regular day or night attenders, and maternity admissions.

Potentially preventable emergency readmissions to hospital grew from 130,760 to 184,763 — an increase of 41.3%. The emergency readmissions now account for 8% of total hospital patient stays, up from 7.5% seven years ago.

Emergency readmissions for pressure sores almost trebled to 22,448. This increase was higher than the overall increase of pressure sore diagnoses in the entire hospital. Patients with pneumonia were readmitted in an increase of a whopping 72.5%.

The number of patients readmitted with venous thromboembolism grew by a third, from 16,890 in 2010-11 to 23,006 in 2016-17.

Concerns have been raised regarding the premature discharge of patients back into their homes who are then quickly readmitted to hospital. Since 2010, the number of emergency readmissions occurring one day after discharge increased by a quarter.

Research analyst at the Nuffield Trust. Jessica Morris, who authored the findings, said: “There has been an increase in the absolute number of emergency readmissions in recent years, which highlights the growing and increasingly complex nature of demand faced by the NHS.  

“Given the national-level policies aimed at reducing readmissions, it is vital that we continue to investigate the data both at a national and local level.”

Morris added that conditions that were not diagnosed during their first visit is potentially a warning sign that the quality of patient care may have been compromised.

“The findings provide local health providers with a good opportunity to sit up and focus their attention and quality improvement initiatives on the three conditions where we’ve seen the most significant rise in readmissions,” Morris added

Chief executive of the NHS Confederation Niall Dickson said the readmissions “should come as no surprise” to anyone—adding that demand on the system is stretching staff and resources beyond the point where they are most effective.

“Meanwhile there are simply not enough resources in the community to prevent admissions and readmissions. It is vital that we share this learning and improve the care and experiences of patients as they leave hospital so that they remain well and at home for as long as possible. 

“Without new ways of delivering services and sustained investment, NHS and social care services will not cope,” he added.

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Image credit: Peter Byrne, PA Images

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