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Patients worried about leaving hospital due to poor communication, report reveals

Surrey patients have told Healthwatch Surrey that a lack of clear information and communication is causing unnecessary worry when leaving hospital. This includes inadequate plans for transport home and relatives not receiving information about changes to care, such as new medication being prescribed.

One patient was even sent home without a house key and without family or friends being informed.

A new report from the local health and care watchdog analyses the in-depth experiences of 59 older people and their relatives, before and after being discharged home from hospital. Healthwatch Surrey conducted interviews with patients, their families and carers about their expectations and experiences of leaving hospital, after hearing concerns from families about poor communication.

Kate Scribbins, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Surrey said:

“This isn’t a new issue. We know that the system is under a lot of pressure but sending someone home from hospital without telling their relatives or ensuring suitable transport plans are in place is unacceptable. Communicating clearly with patients and their families is a fundamental, and not unreasonable, expectation to ensure people can be discharged safely and compassionately.”

The local champion for health and care services is now developing a checklist to help patients, their carers and families to obtain and track the information they can expect to be given to them in hospital. The checklist includes topics such as symptoms to watch out for once back at home, changes to medication, care at home and living environments and has been designed to help patients and families feel better able to manage the road ahead.

Healthwatch Surrey’s new report: ‘It’s difficult to know what to ask’ also includes a number of recommendations for hospital discharge and social care teams to keep patients (and someone they trust), informed and involved in the process so they feel safe and supported when they leave hospital.

Ms Scribbins added: “We know the health and care system is working on improving discharge, but this will take time. We hope that by creating a practical ‘discharge checklist’ in collaboration with patients, their families and hospital staff, communication will improve, worry and anxiety will be reduced, as will the chance of readmission.”

Healthwatch Surrey will also be seeking a response to its findings from providers and commissioners of hospital and social care services.

The report can be viewed on Healthwatch Surrey’s website www.healthwatchsurrey.co.uk. The ‘discharge checklist’ will be available in early spring.

Anyone who would like to share their experience of an NHS or social care service can contact Healthwatch Surrey on 0303 303 0023 or email enquiries@healthwatchsurrey.co.uk

ENDS