Rise in emergency readmissions for “preventable” conditions

EMERGENCY hospital readmissions for "potentially preventable" conditions have risen by 41 per cent in the last seven years, according to analysis from the Nuffield Trust.

The study found that over the period from 2010/11 and 2016/17 there was an overall 19 per cent rise in patients being readmitted to hospital in an emergency within 30 days of discharge – but with a much higher rate in conditions classified as "potentially preventable". These readmissions include conditions not diagnosed when patients were first admitted to hospital, such as pneumonia, pressure sores and venous thromboembolism (VTE).

Patients readmitted to hospital in an emergency with pneumonia increased by 72.5 per cent – greater than an overall increase in pneumonia cases. The number of patients readmitted with venous thromboembolism grew by a 36 per cent, and emergency readmissions for pressure sores almost trebled, superseding the overall increase in the number of pressure sore diagnoses in hospital.

The authors of the study suggest that changes in hospital coding practices and a rapidly expanding older and frailer population may be partly to blame for the increase but they believe that the findings highlight opportunities for local health providers and policy makers to target quality improvement efforts.

Director of Research at the Nuffield Trust, Professor John Appleby said: "Unnecessary trips and overnight stays in hospital put a strain on elderly patients and their families. That is why it’s concerning that our research shows the number of people being readmitted to hospital within 30 days with potentially preventable conditions is greater than it was seven years ago."

Briefing author Jessica Morris, Research Analyst at the Nuffield Trust, added: "Emergency readmissions to hospital, for conditions that were not diagnosed during their first visit, are potentially a warning sign that a patient’s quality of care may have been compromised.

"The findings provide local health providers with a good opportunity to sit up and focus their attention and quality improvement initiatives on the three conditions where we’ve seen the most significant rise in readmissions."