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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