Delayed discharge

Hospital bedrest can cause an older person’s health to deteriorate rapidly. HCAs will tackle the issue at RCN Congress

The number of older people in hospital who don’t need to be there is a challenge. Age UK says that when an older person gets “stuck” in hospital it can undo much of the benefit of their treatment. When they eventually go home they could be weaker and less well than they should be.

This isn’t a new issue but it’s one members of the RCN Health Practitioner Committee (HP) say must be addressed. So at this year’s Congress, they’re leading the debate. David Burnside, who’ll present the discussion, says the whole nursing team should remember the impact a delayed discharge can have.

It could quickly lead to an older person losing muscle strength

“It could quickly lead to an older person losing muscle strength, making them more susceptible to falls” he says. “If they were previously able to climb the stairs, get out of bed and stand up from the toilet, but they’re no longer able to do these things, this could be the difference between dependence and independence,” he adds.

The HP Committee has found evidence that the number of unnecessary stays in hospital has increased by a third in just two years, with the majority of patients being more than 65 years old.

It would take some simple, fundamental actions to tackle this, David says. “Help patients get out of bed, get dressed, eat meals at a table. This will help reduce muscle wastage and not only facilitate discharge, but make people potentially less dependent on home care support when they leave.”


Can anyone speak in a Congress debate?

Yes – a good debate is made up of a wide cross-section of views.

Will there be a vote on this issue?

No, because it’s a matter for discussion.

Will the views of HCAs be represented in votes cast at Congress?

Absolutely. The HP Committee has seven votes for each resolution and other HCA members may vote as members of other committees, regions or countries.

Find out more about RCN Congress and book your free place. 

Words by Sharon Palfrey

Read next...