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Preventable emergency hospital readmissions soar by 40% 


By Léa Legraien
Reporter
1 June 2018

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The number of patients readmitted to hospital with potentially preventable conditions has increased by more than 40%, the Nuffield Trust has found.

Between 2010/11 and 2016/17, there was a 41.3% increase – from 130,760 to 184,763 – in the number of people being urgently readmitted to hospital for conditions that could potentially have been avoided, according to the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation. 

Looking at a seven-year period, joint research programme Quality Watch analysed the number of patients readmitted within 30 days for conditions – including pneumonia, pressure sores and venous thromboemlism – that patients were not diagnosed with during their first admissions. 

Strain on elderly patients 

Nuffield Trust research analyst and study author Jessica Morris argued that the results are ‘potentially a warning sign that patients’ quality of care may have been compromised’.

She continued: ‘High numbers of emergency readmissions don’t simply signal hospitals sending patients home too quickly.

‘Some emergency readmissions may result from potentially avoidable adverse events, but others may be due to unrelated or unforeseen causes of admission.

Ms Morris said that one of the possible causes might be the rise in the number of older people with multiple and complex illnesses.

‘Disturbing’

Commenting on the report, Society for Acute Medicine president Dr Nick Scriven said ‘some of the figures are disturbing and could be indicative of hard-pressed staff not able to deliver the care they would like to give – this relates in particular to the pressure sore data.

He added: ‘Sometimes we have to acknowledge that we need to keep patients in hospitals longer than we would hope to give them a chance to recuperate enough not to need a readmission.

‘This is where community care should be picking up the load and we would ideally rethink the now almost total lack of community beds.

‘Each readmission is a tragedy for the individual concerned in that it further puts them at risk of declining health in a downward spiral and, in my view, is often a consequence of units and individuals being totally overstretched by demands on them.’

In February, the British Medical Association reported that overnight hospitals bed in England had decreased by a fifth in ten years.

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