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Your spotlight on local services

NHS needs to do more to understand why people are returning to hospital after being discharged


A report by Healthwatch shows that emergency readmissions to hospital have risen by a fifth since 2012/13

What are emergency readmissions?

An emergency readmission is defined by the NHS as anyone who has to return to hospital for unplanned further treatment within 30 days of having left.

This covers unforeseen readmissions, such as people receiving chemotherapy having to be readmitted because of side effects. It also covers cases where people have been discharged too early or without the right social care support in place.

Earlier this month, Healthwatch published a report in which over 2,000 people told local Healthwatch about their experiences of being discharged from hospital. These included the experiences of people who, once having left hospital, were readmitted within a short period. When Healthwatch looked into the data to see what it could tell them about people’s experiences of being readmitted to hospital they found that no complete national dataset has been published on this since December 2013.

As a result, they asked hospital trusts across England for a day-by-day breakdown of their emergency readmissions data for each of the last five years, and received information from over half of the hospital trusts in England.

The findings

In 2016/17 there were 529,318 emergency readmissions reported by 84 hospital trusts. Looking at the full data provided by 72 hospital trusts showed that:

  • Between 2012/13 - 2016/17 the number of emergency readmissions rose by 22.8%. This compares with a 9.3% rise in overall admissions to hospitals during the same period.

  • The numbers of emergency readmissions within 24 hours rose even faster with a 29.2% increase

  • The number readmitted within 48 hours account for 1 in 5 of the overall total of emergency readmissions (21.6%)

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