REPORT: What do the numbers say about emergency readmissions?

As part of their work to understand people’s experiences of leaving hospital, Healthwatch has published a new analysis of NHS emergency readmissions data. Asking hospital trusts across England for a day-by-day breakdown of their emergency readmissions data for each of the last five years – then analysing the information received thus highlighting how emergency readmissions data can help hospital trusts’ boards, managers and clinicians identify risk and learn from occassions when things do go wrong. The following are the findings and the report as released by Healthwatch

Admissions to hospital and delayed transfers of care (DTOCs) are well monitored and understood, but information about the number of people being readmitted to hospital for unplanned follow-up treatment is less widely available.

Indeed, nothing has been published at a national level regarding these figures since December 2013. NHS Digital says on its website that this is because the methodology is being reviewed.

In October 2017 we published our report What happens when people leave hospital and other care settings? This briefing set out what we have heard about people’s experiences of leaving hospital over the last two years. It recommended that health and social care organisations improve their use of data to understand where the discharge process is going wrong.

Following this work, we have taken a more detailed look specifically at the data around emergency readmissions. Our work follows a 2016 report by the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee which said the government and NHS need to improve their understanding of this particular dataset.

Our analysis is not meant to suggest to clinicians that they should keep people in hospital for longer. We know that lengthy stays in hospital can put people at risk, for reasons including muscle wastage and exposure to infection. It is also worth noting that the current understanding of the data makes it impossible to distinguish between genuinely unforeseeable emergency readmissions and readmissions that would not be surprising to clinicians, and those where the system could put measures in place to avoid similar circumstances in the future.

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We also acknowledge that emergency readmissions are not just the responsibility of the NHS. All organisations involved in caring for people and keeping them out of hospital can benefit from a greater understanding of this issue to help improve people’s experiences.

The purpose of this work is to highlight how current emergency readmissions data can help hospital trusts’ boards, managers and clinicians identify risk and learn from occasions when things do go wrong. It also outlines how the data collection could be improved.

Read the full report, including the findings