BASINGSTOKE’S hospital chief has said that patients are only sent home at night if they want to leave, and that discharges are never done just to free up beds.

Mary Edwards, chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, made the comments after a patients’ group voiced concerns over night-time discharges.

The Patients Association said it is concerned about the issue of late-night discharges nationally, and added it is important for trusts to put patients before convenience and take particular care of the elderly.

Katherine Murphy, Patients Association chief executive, said: “Discharging vulnerable patients during the night is totally unacceptable, lacks compassion and is a real risk to the safety of each individual who is treated in this way.

“Many patients, particularly the elderly, may well be returning to an empty, cold house and have no care support in place to monitor their needs.

“Trusts should have a planned, patient-focused approach to discharges. They should not happen at the whim or convenience of the hospital.”

In 2011, 1,676 patients were discharged from Basingstoke hospital between the hours of 11pm and 6am. This equates to 2.73 per cent of the total of 61,459 patients who left Basingstoke hospital in 2011.

Chief executive Mrs Edwards said patients would only be sent home during the night when it was deemed to be appropriate.

She said: “We discharge a very small number of all patients at night and only when it is appropriate to do so.

“The Short Stay unit in our Emergency Department and our Acute Assessment Unit often have patients who have been brought in for urgent assessment.

“Once the patients are confirmed as safe to go home, they often want to go straight away rather than stay until the morning.”

She added: “We would never send someone home at night, who didn’t want to go home, just to free up a bed.”

The figure of 2.73 per cent is below the national average of 3.5 per cent of patients who were discharged from hospital in 2011 between the hours of 11pm and 6am.