Background: Early discharge for patients with acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD) has been shown to be effective by clinical trials. To evaluate its implementation and efficacy in clinical practice, data concerning early discharge schemes (EDS) from the 2003 National COPD Audit were collected and analysed.
Methods: All acute Trusts in the UK were surveyed in Autumn 2003 by two means: one a questionnaire relating to organisation of care and second an audit of 40 clinical cases admitted with AECOPD.
Results: Data were available for both organisation of care and clinical activity for 233 units, of which 103 (44%) had EDS. Models of care included admission prevention in the accident and emergency department (5%), rapid discharge in <48h (27%), assisted discharge occurring 2 days or more after admission (24%) and combinations of these (12%). There was wide variation in organisation of care overall. 30% of patients in units with EDS were discharged early from hospital. Units with EDS had an average LOS 1-day shorter with no increase in readmission rate (32% vs. 32%) as for those without an EDS and no increase in mortality.
Conclusions: There is wide variation in the availability of EDS for AECOPD in the UK, with increasing implementation of schemes. Thirty percent of patients can effectively be put into EDS which is higher than the figure of 25% from randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Mortality and readmission rates are the same as for units where no EDS is available and similar to results reported in RCTs. EDS therefore appears to be effective in routine clinical practice.