Patients are being discharged from Shropshire hospitals into family homes and care homes with Covid. While it is to be expected that patients are transferred when their treatment has ended, what is not acceptable is that the families and care homes are not always told whether discharge patients are Covid positive. This goes counter to the public health messages we hear every day.
Lax practice by Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust has led to Covid spreading. After councillors Tracey Huffer and Heather Kidd raised the issue in local media, county health chiefs pledged to review current practices and protocols. They said health chiefs need to ensure that the discharge practices at the county’s hospitals do not risk spreading Covid into the families and care homes.
Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East has personal experience of the failure of SaTH to inform families about discharged patients being Covid positive. Her father, John, had been treated in the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital for cancer. When that proved to be terminal, he was discharged to receive palliative care. Richard Huffer drove John home. Only the day after, did they learn that John had Covid-19. Tracey had already treated patients before she received the news. She told BBC Radio Shropshire:
“I’d seen six patients that morning – I could have put those patients at risk. [John and I]
spent ten days in isolation together with me as his carer, counting the days down until he could have some little bit of freedom, we could take him outside.
“But unfortunately, as we came out of isolation my dad passed away, and the day my father died, my husband went down with symptoms and tested positive.”
John spent the last two weeks of his life blaming himself for giving Tracey Covid.
After BBC Radio Shropshire pressed the matter with health managers, Dave Evans, Accountable Officer for the Clinical Commissioning Group said the medical case for discharging patients from hospital was clear. If there was no reason to keep patients in hospital because of the health condition, they should be discharged. This is the same as in with any health condition. Staying in hospital might be a greater risk for themselves and for other patients.
He added that national guidelines are clear that people should be tested on discharge. If they are Covid positive and going into care homes, they will be assigned to designated Covid beds. Families must also be informed:
“Families obviously should be informed if someone is going to be discharged who is Covid-positive, so that the family are not only aware but can also take the right precautions to deal with their relative upon discharge. Anyone who is going to be discharged from hospital, irrespective of whether they are Covid-positive or not, should be having assessment carried out on ensuring that the discharge is safe.”
He said that SaTH was aware of cases that have been raised in the media where discharges had led to further infection and would be reviewing them to see if there are further steps it needs to take to prevent a recurrence. He said that the CCG will be having discussions with SaTH about this issue.
Tracy Huffer says:
“It is good that our complaints have been heard. But we urgently need commitments that will ensure that hospital discharges do not spread the Covid further. Hospitals must ensure tell those who are to care for patients with Covid-19 about the diagnosis. They must ensure that care homes, and most importantly families, know how to care for discharged patients and how to keep themselves and everyone around them safe.
“Covid infection rates are falling across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin. That’s good news. But hospitals are still environments where infection can spread rapidly. We need to ensure that the discharge practices at our county’s hospitals do not risk spreading Covid into the families and care homes.”