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Assessing the implications of the new hospital discharge workbook

The government has recently implemented measures to better manage the hospital discharge of older people. Such policy has, however, seemed largely concerned with the problem of bed blocking rather than optimum care practice, and the rights and choices of older people have often been ignored in an effort to speed up the process. Stephen Lowe, a community care (services) policy officer at Age Concern England, assesses how far the publication of the workbook, Discharge from Hospital: Pathway, Process and Practice, might help remedy the problems and establish good-practice guidelines in discharge care.

2 June 2003

The discharge of older people from hospital has been the subject of a great deal of recent attention from the government. Intermediate care, fines for local authorities who delay the provision of care services, and performance indicators intended to promote the faster provision of social care services are all aimed at ensuring that older people are not unnecessarily detained in hospital. In some cases, however, this concern seems to stem primarily from a preoccupation with freeing up hospital beds.

Measures to ensure that disputes are resolved and that older people move on to receive the most appropriate services, and that they are able to exercise choice, have often been lacking. This absence has been conspicuous during the passage of the Community Care Services (Delayed Discharge) Bill, which initially failed to even mention the rights of older people, let alone take account of them. Former statutory guidance (HSG(95)8:LAC(95)5) governing hospital discharge was...

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