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DH criticised over hospital discharge information obligations

The NHS Alliance has criticised a component of the NHS Operating Framework that could mean many foundation trusts do not have to comply with new targets for providing prompt discharge information.

While the Alliance has welcomed the broad thrust of the recently published Operating Framework - particularly for its greater emphasis on local decision making and practice-based commissioning (PBC) - it says "it is disappointing that the new discharge obligations will not apply to most foundation trusts".

The Operating Framework includes targets for discharge information to be provided to GPs within 72 hours of patient discharge, and within 24 hours by April 2010.

The NHS Alliance has campaigned for this over the past three years, claiming delayed and incomplete discharge information regularly puts patient safety and quality of care at risk.

However, the Alliance claims foundation trusts with existing three-year contracts will not have to meet these new targets until their current contract runs out.

"This will create a two-tier system for a critical safety issue", the NHS Alliance has said in a press statement, and added that it believed all hospitals and secondary care providers should be required to meet the same standards.

NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon said: "Discharge summaries are as much a part of patient care as a surgical procedure or diagnostic test. It is unacceptable - and potentially dangerous - to fail to ensure that all patients receive the same standard of care.

"It is impossible for GPs to treat patients properly when they do not know the results of diagnostic tests, what treatment has been given in hospital or what medication has been prescribed.

"Yet we are in danger of accepting a two-tier system. Foundation trusts, meant to be the best, can avoid meeting the most up-to-date standards in providing essential discharge information.

"Existing foundation trust contracts were often negotiated with PCTs that no longer exist, and pre-date PBC."

NHS Alliance

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"I fully agree. This should be the doctor's responsibility and not left for nursing staff to be responsible" - Name and address supplied

"The two-tier system is already on, affecting wages and working conditions as well" - Name and address supplied

"It sounds very much like this will be the most dreadful situation and a disgrace,  the end result following introduction of a new, supposedly better system" - Name and address supplied

"I think it is more of a concern that GPs are notified about investigations such as biopsy results and that the patient is not informed. This has happened to me recently, my OPD appointment was not for nearly seven weeks" - Name and address supplied