Unplanned readmissions can be a good indicator of patient safety at a hospital.

What are unplanned readmissions?
What can unplanned readmissions tell you about a hospital?
Your checklist

What are unplanned readmissions?

An unplanned readmission is where a patient, who has been previously treated in hospital, has to return to the same hospital as an emergency within 31 days of being discharged for a problem related to their original treatment.

For example, when a patient returns to hospital with a surgical wound infection that occurred two weeks after their initial hospital stay.

On a hospital’s profile you will see two numbers which are based on the latest 12 months of information provided by hospitals:

  • the total number of unplanned readmissions and
  • the rate of unplanned readmissions for every 1,000 patients

Hospitals treating a large number of complex patients may have a higher number of unplanned readmissions, but could have a lower rate. Looking at the rate as well as the count makes it easier to compare hospitals of different sizes.

What can unplanned readmissions tell you about a hospital?

The rate of unplanned readmissions is an important indicator of patient safety where there is a possibility of complications post-treatment. Even with the best of preventative measures in place, events like this will occasionally happen, so hospitals should have measures in place to minimise their occurrence.

If your hospital does not record and report their unplanned readmissions this may lead you to question whether they adequately monitor safety. This will be made clear on the hospital’s profile. Hospitals that do record and report their unplanned readmissions are likely to have a strong focus on patient safety and learning.

If a hospital has a higher rate of unplanned readmissions compared to others, this could be for several reasons. For example, the hospital might treat chronic conditions where patients may need emergency treatment on a regular basis, or it could be because a patient was discharged prematurely and has had further complications post treatment.

The numbers that are on our website can’t tell you the full story of what is going on at each hospital, so this information is best used during discussions with your consultant or hospital.

Your checklist

  1. Check your preferred hospital on PHIN’s website. If they aren’t monitoring and reporting their unplanned readmissions, what could this mean for your care?
  2. Understand your hospital’s unplanned readmission rates. Is there a reason why they might have a higher rate compared to others?
  3. Ask questions. Use the information published on our website to guide your conversations with your hospital and consultant.

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