NICE guidance urges hospitals to appoint discharge coordinators to avoid delays

NICE recommends that the role should be the ‘central point of contact’ for health and social care practitioners, the patients and their family, during discharge planning. The candidates will work with the hospital and community based teams to construct a discharge plan, which will include appraising the patient’s social and emotional well-being as well as the practicalities of daily life.

Furthermore, the guidelines outlined the importance of ensuring that any specialist equipment and support necessary is accessible to the person before they are discharged from hospital.

According to NICE, the guidelines are aimed at making sure people with social care needs in need of hospital treatment receive the support they require to leave hospital in a coordinated and timely manner.

The new guidelines have arisen after the release of NHS figures for August 2015 found over 5,000 people had experienced delays in their discharge from hospital, an increase from the 2012 figure of 3,961.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care for NICE, said: “Going into hospital can be an anxious time for many. For those with extra care needs, they may continue to worry about how they will cope when they go back home.

“Practitioners should be talking to each other, sharing information and planning discharge from the time the person is admitted or earlier if possible.

“We know that it can be challenging to co-ordinate a person’s discharge from hospital when they also have extra care needs.

One of our recommendations is for a single person to co-ordinate the process for each individual to streamline and simplify the process.”

Anna Bradley, chair of Healthwatch England, said: “We heard shocking stories which highlighted how poor co-ordination of health and social care services and a failure to put patients at the heart of discharge planning is resulting in far too many people being kept in hospital longer than necessary, as well as many being discharged too early and being readmitted to hospital soon after. This comes at a huge human and financial cost.

“Everyone should experience a safe, dignified and well planned transfer of care; however our special inquiry into unsafe discharge, ‘Safely Home’, found that sadly this is often not the case. We therefore welcome this new guidance from NICE.”

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