The issue of elderly psychiatric patients remaining in hospitals after being declared medically fit is of concern to doctors, hospital managers and politicians alike. This article sets out the findings from a study involving elderly psychiatric patients at a district general hospital, undertaken to establish the actual lengths, reasons for and financial implications of delays in discharge. The study involved 50 in-patients, all of whom had been discharged over the 3-month study period.
More than half of the patients in the sample were subject to some delay in discharge and for patients waiting for Elderly Mentally Infirm (EMI) placements this averaged 50 days. Collectively, nearly 25% of the time spent in hospital was due to delay. The cost to the hospital was estimated at more than £700 000 in 1 year.
Patients are being put at extra risk in terms of their health by being delayed in hospital. Issues of institutionalisation, nosocomial infections and falls are of primary concern.
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