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NHS report reveals catalogue of problems discharging elderly north east patients

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

A leaked report has revealed a shocking catalogue of failings in the treatment of elderly patients being transferred from north-east hospitals to care homes.

The findings showed that pensioners returned to residential and sheltered housing complexes cold, hungry, in pain or dressed inappropriately.

In other cases, people arrived without their possessions, while others were discharged without medication or with a wrong prescription.

One family who complained to NHS Grampian management were told that nothing could be done because there was “pressure” to clear beds at hospitals.

The report exposes further difficulties for the troubled health board, which has endured a turbulent few months.

Chief executive Richard Carey and chairman Bill Howatson have both quit, while senior clinicians have claimed A&E consultants are near “breaking point” because of staff shortages.

The latest findings emerged as Health Secretary Alex Neil, who claimed in an interview earlier this week that the board was not in crisis, was replaced in a Scottish cabinet reshuffle.

North-east MSP Richard Baker said last night that incoming minister Shona Robison, MSP for Dundee East, should tackle the “alarming” problems in the north-east as “a priority”.

Grampian Senior Citizens Forum said the evidence was “disturbing” and said every patient should be entitled to expect a good standard of care.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said a number of improvements had been made since the internal report was produced, including a safeguard that no patient leaves a ward without a qualified nurse signing-off the discharge as appropriate.

The report covers a period from November 2013 to March this year and affects Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI), Woodend, Dr Gray’s in Elgin and community hospitals in Aboyne, Inverurie, Peterhead and Stonehaven.

It was a follow-up to a previous bad report from NHS Grampian’s own staff and found that standards set had not been met.

The original review was undertaken after issues were raised by care home managers in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire in relation to the discharge of residents between December 2012 and March 2013.

It states that concerns were expressed about the “physical appearance and wellbeing” of patients returning to care homes.

In 15 cases, the resident arrived after 5pm, with the latest at 9pm.

There was no notification about the discharge of two residents, while no escort was provided for a further five.

In some cases, the patient had to be readmitted to hospital within 48 hours because of their “poor condition”.

One patient was given the wrong dose of medication because of incorrect information provided, while another arrived with unlabelled tablets. In another case, a patient arrived by taxi with their possessions in a bin bag.

Labour MSP Mr Baker said: “This is extremely concerning.

“Obviously, when patients return to care homes from hospital, they should expect to arrive with the right medicine, the right information and be made as comfortable as they can be. This report shows there are far too many instances where that has not been the case.

“It is alarming that the standards of care that people should expect have not been in place. These are some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

“This is something that NHS Grampian and the new health secretary should be making a priority for action.”

George Thomson, secretary of the Grampian Senior Citizens Forum, said he was aware of problems with discharges from hospitals in Aberdeen.

He said: “The disturbing thing is that we have just had the chief executive and chairman of NHS Grampian resigning, the whole structure seems to be disintegrating into a bit of chaos.

“It is very important for older people, if they are leaving hospital, that the conditions are right, otherwise they will end up back in hospital again quickly.

“You want to think that if you have to go to hospital or to a care home, then the best possible care will be provided.”