A Royal Preston Hospital patient claims that hold-ups in discharging people back to their homes could be reduced if the process of dispensing any medication they need to take with them was sped up.
It comes after an appeal made last month by bosses at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) for relatives to collect their loved ones promptly once they are told that they are fit to leave.
The trust said that beds were being occupied for longer than they needed to be because some patients were left waiting for much of the day for a lift home.
While LTH recognised that such situations were not the sole reason for delayed discharges, one man who - along with a relative - has had recent spells on the wards of the Royal Preston says that he witnessed a far more common cause.
“In my experience, I’ve never seen anybody sat there waiting for a relative to pick them up - but I have seen plenty of people waiting for medication from the pharmacy, myself included,” said Colin Daniels [not his real name].
“Three out of the four people in my room were identified as fit for discharge by mid-morning. All three [sets of] relatives were in attendance by 2pm - our bags packed, all ready to go. All three of us [were told], ‘Sorry, [we are] waiting for your discharge meds’.”
Colin says that one of his fellow patients was the first to be dispensed their prescription at 5pm, while he waited over an hour longer for his own. And he claims that a close relative experienced an even longer delay.
“We [arrived at] 10am to collect him, by which point his bed had been stripped - and we waited. We took him to the hospital café for lunch, returning to the ward to wait by the blocked bedside for his discharge meds.
“At 6pm, they eventually arrived. No delays [caused] by relatives - purely by hospital procedures,” said Colin, who stressed that the care he and his family had experienced was “excellent” and that he appreciated the pressure that all areas of the hospital are under.
However, he believes that speedier dispensing of medication would help both patients and an NHS struggling for capacity.
Responding to the comments, Faith Button, chief operating officer at LTH, said that there are “a variety of reasons why discharges take longer than they should” - and explained that the wider health and care system across Lancashire explores these several times a day in an attempt to address them.
She added: “At the moment, our hospitals are incredibly busy, so every single discharge helps to ease the pressure and reduces the waiting times for those needing a bed.
“Since our original ask of patients and their relatives at Christmas, our overall staffing levels, like those of other trusts, have been significantly impacted by the Omicron variant of Covid-19. For example, Covid-related absence is currently affecting our pharmacy team, so getting medicines to patients ready to go home has been delayed on occasions.
“However, relatives should not be asked to pick up their loved ones until all the issues in relation to their discharge are completed. So if the gentleman affected would like to get in touch with us direct, we can apologise and explore what happened with a view to strengthening our processes.
“It really does help us when relatives come and collect their loved ones in a timely way, just as it helps us when people use appropriate alternatives to A&E, so we are asking the public to bear with us on this.
“On behalf of all our staff, I would like to put on record our thanks for the ongoing support of our communities at what is a very challenging time for the local health and care system,” Ms. Button added.
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