The practice of discharging NHS patients from hospital in the middle of the night to create more beds is to be investigated.
Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director, confirmed that an enquiry will take place to ensure that patients only sent home at reasonable hours in the future.
The investigation has been launched on the back of claims from The Times that 3.5 per cent of all discharges are now taking place between 11pm and 6am.
This practice causes problems for older adults in particular, who often return to empty houses because of the lack of planning, the Patients Association told The Times.
Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK, commented: "It is essential that patients are discharged from hospital at a time which ensures that any ongoing support is in place and not simply when a ward needs to free up a bed."
If patients are sent home without the proper provisions there is also a chance that they could have to return to hospital at a later date because they are unable to get the care they need.
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