Thousands of pensioners discharged in middle of the night


MORE than 5,000 elderly patients have been discharged from hospital in the middle of the night, shock new figures show.

Records – obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats – revealed patients have left hospital care between the hours of 9pm and 9am.

Around a third of these were over 80-years-old and it is understood that in one case a 93-year-old was bungled into a taxi at 11pm to free up beds.

Health bosses said they never allow a patient to leave unless it is “safe and appropriate”.

But critics said the figures are “worrying” and more needs to be done to ensure patient safety.

The figures – relating to 2012 alone – were obtained by the Lib Dems under freedom of information legislation.

They show a total of 5,064 patients over the age of 65 were recorded as “discharged” between 9pm and 9am – this included 1,672 patients who were over the age of 80 (33.1%).

Five of the country’s 14 health boards – Ayrshire & Arran, Forth Valley, Lanarkshire, Shetland and Tayside – said they have a policy which bans overnight discharges.

But the remaining nine do allow the practice – NHS Grampian alone discharged 905 patients over 80-years-old.

The overall figure is also thought to be higher because the computer system used by some of the health boards does not register the times of a discharge.

Jim Hume, the Lib Dems health spokesman, said: “People deserve to have confidence that no matter where they are in Scotland their loved ones are receiving the highest standard of care.

“It’s worrying to learn that some older people may be discharged late at night.

“In some cases patients may have self-discharged or staff have updated their records at quieter times in the night – but I don’t believe a single older patient should have to face returning home from hospital in the early hours.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are very clear that no patient should be discharged from hospital unless it is safe and appropriate to do so.

“It is not NHS practice to discharge patients late at night.”