Objective: To describe patients' experience of accelerated discharge after hip arthroplasty in order to test the acceptability to patients of economically driven shortening of post-operative stay.
Methods: Patients (n = 35) who had received primary total hip replacement up to 12 weeks previously were recruited from two UK orthopaedic units, one of which has pioneered short post-operative stay (3-4 days), and another one of which retains a traditional regimen of discharge after 6-7 days. Patients were interviewed about their experience of care, focusing particularly on their views related to length of stay and with particular attention to patients' well-known tendency to mask critical views of their care. Transcripts were analysed thematically to identify the ways that patients evaluated their care and whether these differed between sites.
Results: Patients were primarily concerned with how attentive and informative hospital staff had been and did not refer to length of stay spontaneously. When prompted about this, they did not question their discharge time, although those in the more traditional unit could not countenance more rapid discharge. Patients in the unit with accelerated discharge described concerns about the consequences of early discharge for them or their family, particularly managing pain and mobility problems at home and needing more support.
Conclusions: Patients' traditional beliefs about the necessity of prolonged convalescence are not a barrier to early discharge after hip arthroplasty. Nevertheless, some patients' acceptance of early discharge masks doubts and concerns. More intensive post-operative management may be needed if clinical care is not to suffer.