SCARBOROUGH health chiefs have admitted sending over 500 patients home during the night last year, and the Free Press can reveal that 118 of those were Bridlington residents.
Figures show that more than one in every fifty patients (2.21%) were sent home between the hours of 11pm and 6am.
Between April 2011 and March this year, 527 patiens were discharged during these times, and more than two-and-a-half thousand patients have been subject to this treatment in less than five years.
Closer analysis shows that, of the 118 Bridlington residents, 5 were patients who had gone in for planned procedures; 48 were maternity patients; and 65 were ‘non-elective’ - an element that includes A&E admissions or people who were transferred to other hospitals.
Bridlington Hospital itself, which looks after less seriously ill patients, escaped the trend that has affected hundreds of thousands of patients nationally.
Last year it didn’t send any patients home late at night, although over the previous four years a total of 36 patients were discharged between 11pm and 6am.
As a local campaigner for health matters and pensioner’ rights, Jean Wormwell is horrified but not surprised by the figures.
She said: “We’ve been worried about this for years. Many elderley people get taken in as an emergency, then there’s been a delay in them being seen, and then they don’t need to be admitted so they are sent home in the dead of night - many a time even when they live alone.
“We’ve been looking at the discharge process for a long time, but it does now seem as though people are finally taking notice.
“Social Services and health are starting to work more closely together, and checking that there is at least some sort of provision before sending an elderly person home alone. Closer working with social services is progress, and it’s important that things improve.”
Liz Booth, Director of Operations at Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Over the past year, we have been working to improve our discharge processes.
“When a patient is admitted to Bridlington or Scarborough Hospital their discharge is planned and discussed with the patient and their family.
“We would never discharge anyone from hospital unless it was clinically appropriate, safe and convenient for the patient or their family.
“These figures need to be put into context as they include patients from maternity – which is patient choice – the emergency department, or those who were transferred to another hospital.
“The figures show no patients were discharged from Bridlington Hospital between the hours of 11pm and 6am.
“We are not complacent and will continue to improve our processes further through the work of our discharge planning group to increase the number of discharges which occur in the morning.”
The government has said it will investigate why hospitals throughout the country are sending people home at night.
NHS medical director Prof Sir Bruce Keogh has written to Strategic Health Authorities saying that sending people home when they may have no family support is not acceptable.
He wrote: “While some patients may of course choose to be discharged during these hours, the examples highlighted of elderly patients being left to make their way home by themselves in the middle of the night are obviously unacceptable, and need to be addressed urgently.”
Bridlington and Scarborough Hospitals are both about to be taken over by York NHS Trust, which recorded an overnight discharge rate of 2.36%.
Although marginally higher than Scarborough, this is still better than the 3.5% national average.