CONCERNS have been raised that ‘hundreds of patients are being sent home from hospital too quickly to free up beds’.

New figures show East Lancashire has some of the highest readmission rates in the UK.

They cover the number of patients admitted through emergency wards within 30 days of being discharged from hospital.

Bosses at the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals have acknowledged the need for improvement and said the reasons for the high rates are being investigated.

The readmission rates for those living in the Blackburn postcode were the third highest in the country, according to stats published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, with the rest of East Lancashire ranked 41st out of about 200 NHS authority areas.

East Lancashire Hospitals Trust is also failing to meet a key NHS target for unplanned re-attendances at A&E, though the performance has improved slightly since last year.

Health watchdog Ron O’Keeffe said he was concerned that patients are being discharged before they are ready.

The chairman of Blackburn with Darwen’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee added: “The hospitals have got to look at their patients and make sure they’re ready for going home before they are sent home. There needs to be more care taken before patients are released. This is something I’m very concerned about and we’ve got to look at it.”

Hospital staff across the North West have been under severe pressure due to high levels of attendances in recent months, leading the Royal College of Nursing to raise fears for patient safety.

Among the concerns raised by the union was that some patients were being discharged too soon in a bid to vacate beds.

Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “This is a cause for concern and I hope the hospital trust will look into it. It’s linked into the pressure on beds, which runs into the extent to which GPs are available to deal with out-of-hours work.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s adult care chief Mohammed Khan said: “It is becoming something of a merry-go-round of people going to A&E, being discharged and coming back.

“We need to make sure that people are being treated properly, discharged at the right time and receive the right after care. If they are not, they will be coming back to the A&E department the following day or following week needing more treatment.”

And Gordon Birtwistle, MP for Burnley, said: “I’ve been concerned about the re-admission rates for a long time, because it worries me in terms of patient safety. Obviously there’s a shortage of beds and this is why we want them to reopen large parts of Burnley General.”

Pendle Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Greaves said he would raise the issue with Earl Howe, the government health minister in the House of Lords.

He added: “We need to know whether people are being discharged too soon, not being admitted properly in the first place or whether the aftercare when they are sent home is inadequate.”

Val Bertenshaw, director of operations, said: “The trust has improved on its unplanned re-attendance rate which was 6.23 per cent in 2011/12 and is 5.50 per cent in 2012/13.

“Re-attendances to emergency department also include people with addiction problems and social issues who may not need emergency services but do not use other services available in the community.

“This differs to re-admission rates which the trust board identified as a need for improvement in its Quality Improvement Strategy. “Work streams have now been co-ordinated to manage the issues on a specialty basis with detailed investigation into why they are occurring and we are confident that this will show improvements in the near future.

“Both these indicators are measures of system health not just what happens in the hospital and we are working closely with our partners to redesign care pathways that support people in the community and provide appropriate alternatives to hospital admission.”