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GPs go forth

Hospital patients discharged early to free up beds told not to contact GP

Patients who have been discharged from hospital early to create more capacity for those with coronavirus (Covid-19) have been told to avoid contacting their GP.

Instead, community health services will take the lead on managing the needs of these patients, NHS England has said.

This was the instruction in the latest message to GPs on the situation with Covid-19, sent by NHS England on the weekend.

It said: ‘Part of the recommended guidance for effective discharge includes giving patients the direct telephone number of the ward they are discharged from to call if they need advice relating to their discharge and not to contact their GP or visit A&E.’

However, NHS England said that although 'community health services will take overall responsibility for ensuring the effective delivery of the discharge service', they would be 'working with other delivery partners including GPs'.

'For example, GPs may need to follow up particular patients who have been discharged and help ensure effective support,' the letter said.

NHS England told hospitals to discharge patients early into community care to free up beds earlier this month. 

Its 17 March letter to GPs, hospital and community bosses said that moving patients in this manner could release 15,000 acute beds for people with Covid-19.

The NHS faces challenges with a shortage of physical space to accommodate Covid-19 patients, and has given the go-ahead to three temporary hospitals, in London, Birmingham and Manchester, to remedy this.

NHS Nightingale, in the capital's ExCel centre, is due to open next week. With over 4,000 beds, it will be among the largest medical sites in the country, and is likely to cater for patients who require intensive care but are considered to have more promising prognoses. 

On 20 March, London's Northwick Park Hospital became the first in the UK to declare a ‘critical incident’ and that it could not accept further coronavirus patients.

Guidance to hospital staff discharging patient early

  • Patient initiated follow up - give patients the direct number of the ward discharged from to call back for advice. Do not suggest going back to their GP or coming to A&E
  • Telephone the following day after discharge to check and offer reassurance/advice
  • Call (patients) back with results of investigations and any changes or updates to a patient’s management plan
  • Bring (patients) back under the same team / speciality
  • Request community nursing follow up with a specific clinical need
  • Request GPs to follow up in some selected cases

Source: NHS England's Covid-19 Hospital Discharge Service Requirements 

Readers' comments (9)

  • To be honest the hospitals get a pass from me for the next 6 months for poor discharges. That the regime described isn’t normal during non pandemic times shows just how low our expectations are for NHS care.

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  • I agree. They don’t even do those things on the list during business-as-usual, let alone a pandemic. We’re getting dumped on extra hard for the next 3+ months, above and beyond the standard dumping, and we know it.

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  • Realistically is that possible? At least the guidance will help us. No PPE no SEE. An infected doctor can infectboth staff and patients leading to a ridiculous weak part of the chain in the lockdown.

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  • All early discharges covid and non covid bounce to OOH, demanding home visits.

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  • new cancer pt discharged last week ,lung cancer nurse advising us today about it as she is only working wed/thu/fri discharge sent to wrong practice and so it starts.....

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  • This is set to fail instantly! Patients calling the ward? What community service ? The whole thing will just end up with GPs again, as it always does, when other services fail...
    Though I do understand, that hospitals are under immense pressure ( not to mention, what's coming their way over the next few weeks … ), but guess what, Covid19 and all he fall out associated with it is also hitting the world outside hospitals, including General Practice.

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  • Got someone discharged on antibiotics for a bowel perforation diagnosed by the GP clinically despite a negative scan initially before confirmation. He contacted guess who? The GP. Sent the poor chap in again.

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  • Thanks to "shave your face with some mace in the dark"

    I'll remain at your beck and call

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