First published 13 April, 2012, on Mail Online
The Times research yesterday revealing that up to 400,000 people a year are discharged from hospital at night is shocking.
Whilst a few patients will be mums who are going home after giving birth and some are sobered-up louts who had been admitted for observation, as 70 per cent of hospital in-patients are elderly the majority of people effected will probably be over 65.
Has the NHS forgotten what it is there for? Yes in the 21st century we have rapid action medicines and clever diagnostic technology that identify problems and restore vital signs to normal but at the heart of health should be caring.
‘Do no harm’ is the first part of the Hippocratic oath and this doesn’t just refer to the physical, but to spiritual and emotional health as well.
Many people will conclude from this report today that we’re now spitting people out when the technical, medical treatment is finished, forgetting that we’re dealing with human beings, not machines.
Although the stories are shocking, if we consider the state of our culture maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.
There has been an erosion of caring as being central to our societal values. It has been downgraded, regarded as a second-rate activity which gives us a key reason as to precisely why we have crisis after crisis in hospitals and care homes.
We need to remember that some anthropologists have now concluded that the first real signs of civilisation are not when man-made tools are found, but when they see evidence of a healed bone fracture.
A healed fracture indicates that a human being was fed and attended to until they recovered.
To reverse our decline, the holistic care for body, mind and spirit that is given to people in hospices now needs to become the model for all institutional care organisations and medical training.
The government also need to take note that these findings today make a mockery of patient choice. We keep hearing from politicians about patient control and ‘no decision about me without me’ but the reality is that often we are given no choice about the circumstances of our care.
Every hospital Board should now be looking at their figures and taking a leaf out of Newcastle Hospitals’ book not to discharge patients at night. The NHS was created to remove fear of not being cared for: are we going to stand by and allow fear to return?
The elderly should have the peace-of-mind in their older years and its down to all of us to do what we can to ensure this. In the light of this report, a first step could be that each of us lobby our local hospital to get an agreement that they will not discharge any elderly person at night.
There is a letter that you can download from the 2020health website. Let me know if you make progress!