A qualitative examination of inappropriate hospital admissions and lengths of stay

BMC Health Serv Res. 2009 Mar 5;9:44. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-9-44.


Background: Research has shown that a number of patients, with a variety of diagnoses, are admitted to hospital when it is not essential and can remain in hospital unnecessarily. To date, research in this area has been primarily quantitative. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceived causes of inappropriate or prolonged lengths of stay and focuses on a specific population (i.e., patients with long term neurological conditions). We also wanted to identify interventions which might avoid admission or expedite discharge as periods of hospitalisation pose particular risks for this group.

Methods: Two focus groups were conducted with a convenience sample of eight primary and secondary care clinicians working in the Derbyshire area. Data were analysed using a thematic content approach.

Results: The participants identified a number of key causes of inappropriate admissions and lengths of stay, including: the limited capacity of health and social care resources; poor communication between primary and secondary care clinicians and the cautiousness of clinicians who manage patients in community settings. The participants also suggested a number of strategies that may prevent inappropriate admissions or reduce length of stay (LoS), including: the introduction of new sub-acute care facilities; the introduction of auxiliary nurses to support specialist nursing staff and patient held summaries of specialist consultations.

Conclusion: Clinicians in both the secondary and primary care sectors acknowledged that some admissions were unnecessary and some patients remain in hospital for a prolonged period. These events were attributed to problems with the current capacity or structuring of services. It was noted, for example, that there is a shortage of appropriate therapeutic services and that the distribution of beds between community and sub-acute care should be reviewed.

MeSH terms

  • England
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay*
  • Male
  • Patient Admission / standards*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • State Medicine
  • Subacute Care