ELDERLY patients in the North East could be being sent home prematurely as new research shows one in six have to undergo emergency readmissions.
Concerns have been raised as new figures revealed emergency readmission rates for people over 75 in England have doubled in the last decade.
The research, conducted by data experts Ssentif Intelligence, showed that average readmission rates for over 75s across the whole of the North East was 16.35% in 2010/2011.
Nationally, the number of over 75s in England who have to undergo emergency readmission to hospital hit 201,000 in 2010/11, according to the research.
The figure is a dramatic rise from 2001/2 when the readmission rate for this age group stood at 103,000 a year.
A concerning 16% of all over 75s need emergency readmission within 28 days of discharge, Ssentif said. It said Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust was one of three nationally which reported readmission rates of more than 20%. The trust, which provides mental health services, had a 20.6% readmission rate for 2010/2011, up 33.35% year-on-year.
Across the region, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust saw a 6.09% change from 2009/2010 to 2010/2011, with an emergency readmission rate of 17.24%.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust saw a 1.16% change from 2009/2010 to 2010/2011, with an emergency readmission rate of 16.61%.
Last night, spokesmen for the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust were unable to comment.
However, some trusts saw a fall in readmission rates. Although Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust recorded a 16.66% emergency readmission rate in 2010/2011, this was down by 0.42%.
A spokeswoman for the trust said it worked “in partnership with social care and community services to ensure that safe discharge pathways are in place” for vulnerable over 75s.
The research by Ssentif showed The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had a 8.14% drop in emergency readmission rates and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust had a drop of 0.84%.
Campaigners said inappropriate discharges often involve patients going home without proper support in place. Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said that high readmission rates are both costly for the NHS and distressing to patients.
She said: “Too often patients, relatives and carers contact our helpline about inappropriate discharges, with patients being sent home without proper planned care in place, at a time when they are incredibly vulnerable.
“This sadly leads to readmissions, and sometimes even more tragic consequences.
“We need a more integrated NHS, so that readmissions don’t continue to lead to poor patient care and huge financial costs to the NHS.”
Judy Aldred, managing director of Ssentif, said: “One of the main reasons for the increase in readmissions is the lack of community health services available to patients after discharge.
“These services were historically provided by primary care trusts, but during the reorganisation of the NHS, many of the community services during the time these figures were collated would have been in the process of moving organisations.
“Many community health services are now provided by the very trusts showing these readmission figures.
“It will be very interesting to see if the Government’s reorganisation plans work and readmission rates drop in the next few years. as the same organisations will provide both inpatient care and community care.”