Lothian patients suffer from discharge ‘postcode lottery’

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SOME of the Lothian’s sickest hospital patients are falling victim to a “postcode lottery” because they are being discharged from specialist units either too early or at inappropriate times, it was claimed today.

A survey published by the Scottish Intensive Care Society Audit Group showed that one in five patients at the intensive care and high dependency unit at the Royal Infirmary left between 8pm and 8am – the second-highest rate in Scotland.

Experts believe that discharging patients from the units to other areas of the hospital at night is riskier and results in worse outcomes for patients.

It was also revealed that seven per cent of patients were discharged early from the unit because of pressure over staffing or beds, rather than because they were medically ready. Only two units of 26 in Scotland recorded higher percentage.

MSP and Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “It’s unacceptable that critically ill patients experience such different results because of where they live. The experts have made clear that this is the result of staffing and capacity.”

Dr David Farquharson, NHS Lothian’s medical director, said: “We have looked at our figures for early discharges from the intensive care unit at the Royal Infirmary and found that in virtually all of the cases patients were transferred to our adjacent high dependency unit.”