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Report shows hospitals overcharging for short-stay patients

A watchdog said that money is being wasted by hospitals in England as they are wrongly overcharging the health service for treating short-stay patients.

Graeme Swain, a specialist medical negligence solicitor at Swain & Co., says, “The Audit Commission highlighted the fact that hospitals could be earning more than 5 times as much by recording them as inpatients rather than outpatients. Sorting out charging issues takes up time and also creates managerial rows that cost the health service further. One trust has claimed the disputes caused are taking up the equivalent of one staff member’s entire workload.”

During the review, the Audit Commission took evidence from a small number of hospital trusts and management bodies concerning how they dealt with patients whose treatment lasted less than 24 hours. It found numerous evidence of the same treatment being recorded as an inpatient in one hospital but as an outpatient in another.

However, the Audit Commission said that there did not seem to be a systematic abuse of the system, but instead is more likely to be related to historic custom and practice.

Graeme Swain said, “I suspect that many hospital staff know exactly what they are doing and seek to maximise their charges where possible.”

Medicine has developed, meaning that more and more treatments and recovery is being done in short visits rather than overnight stays, and because hospitals get less for the patient if they class them as outpatients, they are reluctant to class them as this.

The report also highlighted that in some cases there were examples of hospitals undercharging.

Swain & Co. welcome the findings of the report as we all know that with cuts making money tighter, the efficiency of public bodies needs to be improved to ensure that the British taxpayer is getting value for money. We back the Audit Commissions recommendation that unless if a patient takes up a hospital bed during their treatment and recovery, they should be classed as an outpatient. We have serious concerns about the Commission’s recommendation that you are an inpatient if you take up a trolley. But, the government needs to provide clearer advice and assistance on the issue.

Disputes and money is wasted sorting these out, it increase the risk of care being affected and the risk of medical negligence. Patient safety should be paramount with patients’ care being the focus rather than the monetary value of care to the hospital.

Swain & Co. successfully represent clients in medical negligence claims and win the compensation they deserve. If you believe that you may have suffered from medical negligence, please call our expert team of lawyers who can act on a no win no fee basis and can ensure you receive 100% of your compensation.

We also offer free initial advice, so please call Graeme Swain or Tina Smith on 0800 0351 999.

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