Hospital cuts have caused the number of patients needing emergency treatment to increase with a greater burden falling on GP surgeries, an investigation has revealed.
A study conducted by Pulse found that an NHS hospital scheme to cut follow-up appointments and discharge patients earlier has led to a 12% rise in emergency readmissions.
The investigation used data from the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement to examine the number of patients in the UK readmitted to hospital following 2007 NHS benchmarks promoting the shift of care to GPs.
It found hospitals reduced follow-up appointments by 12% between the first and fourth quarters of 2007 – from an average of 2.5 per case down to 2.2 – in preparation for the efficiency drive.
The number of day cases and bed-days was cut during this time but the proportion of patients requiring emergency readmission within 14 days of discharge rose from 4.2% in the first quarter of 2007 to 4.7% in the third quarter.
Dr Jonathan Fielden, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) consultants' committee, said there was pressure on trusts to "push people out early".
He said: "There are multiple reasons for an emergency readmission, but it is one of the markers suggesting an organisation should look at its discharge policy."