Son’s shock that elderly still being discharged at night

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A SON whose elderly mother was discharged from hospital at night has described his shock that the practice was continuing.

George Simpson complained to the health board after his 83-year-old mother, Morag, was sent from the ERI at 10pm in a cold, old-fashioned ambulance to Ferryfield House.

Mrs Simpson completed the bumpy ride with only a thin blanket to protect her from the elements less than two weeks after she had suffered a major heart attack – and to add insult to injury, Mr Simpson said she was discharged with the wrong set of false teeth.

Mr Simpson won an apology from chief nurse Catriona Rostron, who admitted that Mrs Simpson had been discharged too late and said she had written to senior nurses, saying she did not expect frail or elderly patients to be discharged after 8pm.

But figures obtained by the Evening News under the Freedom of Information Act showed that the number of elderly patients who were discharged even later than Mrs Simpson had actually gone up last year.

Mr Simpson, of Leith, said: “I was assured that this had been investigated and that elderly patients were not going to be released at night, so I was amazed to see that this rubbish is still going on.

“To have taken an 83-year-old woman, who had suffered a heart attack, from a warm and comfortable hospital at night is nothing short of barbaric.”

Mrs Simpson suffered the heart attack on July 27 last year, was discharged to Ferryfield just five days later, but was readmitted to the ERI after another two days when her health took a turn for the worse. She suffered her transfer ordeal on August 8 last year as she was being discharged for a second time, and her health has deteriorated further since the incident.

The figures provided by NHS Lothian showed that 176 patients aged 70 or above were discharged between the hours of 11pm and 6am between April 2011 and March this year.

They were among 939 patients, including 143 aged in their sixties, who were discharged in the middle of the night in 2011/12.

Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, said she suspected elderly and vulnerable people were being discharged at night due to pressure over beds.

Dr David Farquharson, medical director at NHS Lothian, said: “Guidance was provided to all senior nursing staff on hospital wards across NHS Lothian advising them that patients should not be transferred between hospitals in the evening beyond 8pm.

“According to our database 1.2 per cent of all discharges are recorded between 11pm and 6am, and the vast majority of these involve patients between 20 and 59 years. However, we believe that the true number of discharges during these time periods is very small and only due to exceptional circumstances.”