40% of NSW GPs miss out on discharge summaries

2 minute read

‘Not all patients need them’, is the state’s health department response to survey results that show rural areas lagging behind cities.

Whether or not a patient’s GP is sent a discharge summary by a hospital emergency department is dependent on their postcode, according to new figures from the NSW Bureau of Health Information.

The data comes from a survey of around 22,000 people who attended one of 77 emergency departments across the state between July 2021 and June 2022.

Overall, 64% said they were given a document summarising their hospital attendance on discharge, but numbers varied wildly across the state.

As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, the top performing local health districts were Western Sydney, Sydney, Nepean Blue Mountains, Northern Sydney and South Western Sydney, where 80% of patients or more reported receiving a discharge summary.

In the Central Coast, Mid North Coast and Northern NSW LHDs – all of which are classified as regional or rural – fewer than 40% of patients received a discharge summary.

RACGP NSW chair Professor Charlotte Hespe said the results were “disappointing” and that hospitals should be aiming for 100% of patients to be leaving ED with a discharge summary.

“NSW Health’s own data reveals that a GP visit within two days of being discharged from an unplanned hospital admission can result in 32% fewer readmissions within the first week,” she said.

“At the very least, GPs need a discharge summary so that we are not kept in the dark.”

In a response to The Medical Republic and Nine Newspapers, a spokesman for NSW Health said that not every patient discharged from an ED needs a discharge summary, particularly if it’s decided that they don’t need follow-up care.

“However, information should be given to the patient which adequately describes any follow-up treatment they need,” NSW Health told TMR.

“This may be by verbal instruction or patient fact sheets that contain information about their condition or details of who to contact about follow-up treatment.”

Professor Hespe has long called for federal funding to support patients to see their GP within seven days of an unplanned hospital admission or ED presentation.

Needless to say, she was unimpressed with the state health department’s response thus far.

“NSW Health’s response to the survey results left a lot to be desired,” she said.

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