Campaigners have called for renewed efforts to tackle inappropriate discharges after new analysis found the number of elderly patients requiring emergency readmission to hospital had nearly doubled in the past decade.
Research by data analysts Ssentif Intelligence found that the number of over-75s to undergo emergency readmission in England hit 201,000 in 2010-11, up from 103,000 in 2001-02.
The firm said 16 per cent of all over-75s need emergency readmission within 28 days of discharge.
However, performance around the country varied significantly. Readmission rates in the South West were at 12.98 per cent while in London the figure stood at 17.06 per cent.
Ssentif said Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust, Birmingham Women’s Trust and West Middlesex University Hospital Trust all reported readmission rates of more than 20 per cent.
Across all ages, 650,000 patients were readmitted as an emergency in 2010-11 - a considerable rise from 380,000 patients in 2001-2.
Campaigners said inappropriate discharges often involved patients going home without proper support in place.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “These figures showing rising readmissions are of huge concern for patients.
“Too often patients, relatives and carers contact our helpline about inappropriate discharges, with patients being sent home without proper planned care in place, at a time when they are incredibly vulnerable. This sadly leads to readmissions, and sometimes even more tragic consequences.
“We need a more integrated NHS, so that readmissions don’t continue to lead to poor patient care and huge financial costs to the NHS. Urgent action is needed to bring down these unacceptable figures.”
Judy Aldred, managing director of Ssentif, said: “One of the main reasons for the increase in readmissions is the lack of community health services available to patients after discharge.
“These services were historically provided by primary care trusts but during the reorganisation of the NHS, many of the community services during the time these figures were collated would have been in the process of moving organisations.
“Many community health services are now provided by the very trusts showing these readmission figures. It will be very interesting to see if the government’s reorganisation plans work and readmission rates drop in the next few years as the same organisations will provide both inpatient care and community care.”
A West Middlesex University Hospital Trust spokeswoman said: “Over the past year, West Middlesex has been working closely with the primary care trust and local authority to improve the care pathway for older people, with a particular focus on preventing avoidable readmissions.
“We have established a specialist team of nursing and therapy staff who assess the needs of older patients when they arrive at the hospital, to ensure that all of their care and support needs are met during their stay and that their discharge is safe and they are fully supported once they leave hospital.”