Point of contact for hospital patients

Patients in Norfolk are getting an improved service when it comes to being discharged from hospital, but appointing a case worker to oversee the process would be even better, according to a health watchdog.

The Norfolk Local Involvement Network (LINk) has been scrutinising the way that hospitals discharge patients since early 2009.

It says the county’s three acute hospitals have taken on board its suggestions and made improvements, but appointing a case worker would give patients, families, clinical staff and social workers a point of contact, as well as overseeing the best way to help get people home and out of hospital.

Morag Skinner, a member of Norfolk LINk who helped to write the report, said there had been a positive shift in emphasis towards focusing on patients’ experiences while being discharged from hospital.

She said: “I think everyone’s trying to improve their procedures and they are all going in the right direction, but they are all doing it their different ways. It’s difficult for social services as they have to work with three hosp-itals that have different procedures.”

While many patients may be classed as a “straightforward discharge”, sometimes elderly or vulnerable people in particular were finding they had little choice about when and how they leave hospital, and Norfolk LINk has drawn up a series of case studies as part of its report.

Mrs Skinner said: “When we had patients and families contact us, the one thing everyone was saying was they didn’t know who to go to to find out information about when someone was going to be discharged.

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“We’d like to see patients and families informed at each stage of their journey through hospital. Not knowing what’s happening is one of the most frightening things for patients and families, and that could be helped by having a case worker.”

Another recommendation in the report, which will go before the Norfolk Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee, is for social work teams to continue to work with people while they are in hospital as a rule, rather than an option.

The public meeting of the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee is being held today at 10am in the Edwards Room at County Hall in Norwich.