Lords vote to halt weekend hospital discharges

The House of Lords have backed an
amendment to discourage discharges of older people into the
community on weekends and bank holidays, writes Katie

The original proposal in the
Community Care (Delayed Discharges) Bill says that social services
departments will face fines if a patient is not discharged from
hospital within three days of their being ready.

But the peers voted by 134 to 119
for an amendment to exclude Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays
from being counted in the discharge period.

Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones,
who introduced the amendment, said that weekend discharges were
three times more likely to lead to readmission than discharges
which took place earlier in the week.

As a result of the proposed three
day discharge period set out in the bill, social services could
have been told that a person was ready to be discharged from
hospital at 4.30pm on Good Friday, and be prepared for their
discharge no later than 11am on Easter Monday, or face fines.

Conservative Earl Howe said changing
the bill to three working days would be “better for patients…
because to be discharged at a weekend or on a bank holiday when
community services and home care may not be available is, to put it
mildly, less than optimal”.

It would also be fairer on local
authorities as it was not reasonable or fair for social services to
be fully staffed for 365 days a year, he added.

However, former health minister Lord
Hunt said he did not see why older people should suffer “simply
because social services do not work at weekends”.

A second amendment, voted for by 145
to 112, stated that fining should be delayed until the Secretary of
State had made sure there was a system of incentives within NHS
bodies to discourage them from discharging patients
inappropriately. The Lords also decided the Act should be reviewed
after five years.

Liberal Democrat social services
spokesperson Baroness Liz Barker said the government had
already made a major concession on the Bill. “Ministers have agreed
to issue guidance to the NHS stating that before a person is
discharged from hospital, an assessment of their need for NHS
continuing care must be done, and records must be kept in

The amended bill now returns to the
House of Commons for further debate.

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