Probe launched at South Wales hospital after ‘unsafe’ discharge of two patients to care home
A south Wales hospital has launched an inquiry after a care home boss raised allegations of the “unsafe” discharge of patients as the NHS desperately tries to ease the bed-blocking crisis.
A complaint seen by Ialleges that Newport’s Royal Gwent Hospital failed to notify nearby Aria care home of the discharge of an elderly woman with dementia, circumventing safeguards by asking her family to pick her up from the ward.
The nursing home boss also claims the hospital failed to notify its staff that their resident was weaned off an essential medication that helps calm her outbreaks “which pose a risk to herself and others.”
Ali Al-Mufti, a director at Aria-owner Arcadia Care Homes, said: “I understand, of course, that hospitals are under pressure to free up beds and while towards the end of last year we would have been inundated with calls to get people out of the hospital Can’t say we felt pressured to take her by January.
“We had a resident who was brought back to us last weekend without the hospital telling us she was coming. She is a woman in her eighties suffering from dementia.
“Instead, the hospital informed the family that their relative could leave and come back to us. This means that we were not able to do the assessment of her condition to check if she was well enough to come back.
“We have received some documentation on the medications she is currently taking, but we have not been told that she has been stopped on a medication that is helping to relieve the symptoms of her dementia. This meant she was more prone to outbreaks that put her and others at risk.
“Luckily we caught it, notified the hospital and she was given the medication she needed again.
“The hospital claims they told the family about the medication, but that’s not enough. How did they know the family would understand the implications or relay the information to us?”
Mr Al-Mufti said it was the second time in a month that a resident had been brought back from the hospital in circumstances he alleges bypassed security procedures.
In early January, a resident who had tested positive for Covid was sent back to the home.
“In another case, we were told by the hospital on January 9 that one of our residents had tested positive for Covid following a PCR test,” he said. “The correct protocol calls for two negative PCR tests on days five and six, but the hospital did two consecutive lateral flow tests that were negative on the same day and sent them back home.
“A resident with Covid needs to be isolated from the other residents, but this resident is a migrant and it is impossible to keep her away from others.”
Mr Al-Mufti added: “The most important thing is that we have to do our own checks on residents before they return from the hospital, but we couldn’t do that either. Protocols have not been followed and the hospital appears to have cut corners to free up beds as quickly as possible.
“My main concern is that this continues to happen because it’s really unsafe to send someone back without going through the proper safeguarding procedures to protect the resident at the hospital as well as other residents and staff.”
Mr Al-Mufti emailed the Royal Gwent, run by Aneurin Bevan University’s Health Board (ABUHB), to complain about the recent return of its residents, claiming “usual protocols have been broken on two occasions circumvented”.
Following this email, the ABUHB opened an investigation into Mr Al-Mufti’s complaint.
A spokeswoman for ABUHB said: “It would be inappropriate to comment while the investigation is ongoing. The well-being of our patients will always be our highest priority and we take all allegations of protection of concerns very seriously.
“We are adhering to national and local testing guidelines and protocols when discharging patients from our hospitals.
“However, it is important to note that patients may have a positive result in the days following their hospital PCR test.”
Troubles at Mr Al-Mufti’s care home are being repeated across the UK, according to care home managers.
Geoffrey Cox, a board member of the Registered Nursing Home Association and a member of the Care Association Alliance, said: “Is there a problem? Yes I think there is. “Are people at risk? Yes, I think they could be.”
Mr Cox, who is also chief executive of care home group Southern Healthcare, said: “The narrative now is that hospitals are trying to discharge people who are medically fit, but what the hell does that mean?
“I think the government will probably peddle the line that they shouldn’t be in the hospital, if there’s nothing more you can do for them, get them out. It’s pretty aggressive and that’s what I’m looking for.”
Lucy Bull, manager of Castle Grove care home in Bampton, Devon, said she was sent from a hospital to the wrong resident in December.
She said: “It’s a mess, it’s scary and it’s taking lives. The entire system is in crisis, not just in the Southwest but nationwide.
“We find quite often that people are discharged from the hospital without the right papers, without the right medication.
“Before Christmas we actually had the wrong resident delivered to our nursing home.
“They should have gone to another home in South Devon but the paperwork was wrong.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Devon said: “Our care teams are working hard to ensure people are safely discharged from hospital when they are deemed medically fit to leave, whether to their own home or to a care home.
“We know we don’t always get it right, and we work closely with our peers in the care sector to listen to their concerns, investigate issues raised and make improvements where we can.”