Emergency readmissions – where patients are readmitted to hospital in an emergency within 30 days of discharge – are frequently used as a measure of poor patient outcomes. However, it is not this simple. Some emergency readmissions may result from potentially avoidable adverse events, but others may be due to unrelated or unforeseen causes of admission. Some may relate to changes in the way that hospitals run services – for example, through the increased use of frailty and ambulatory care units. And others might be a consequence of our ageing population and the increase in the number of people living with multiple chronic conditions.
Despite the complications in interpreting what this means for the quality of care, publishing data on emergency readmissions is the first step in understanding why they are happening. In 2018, we published a briefing using Hospital Episode Statistics data to look at trends in emergency readmissions to hospital, at a time when no data was being published. In March 2019, NHS Digital began to publish data on emergency readmissions as part of their ongoing review of emergency readmissions indicators, and it is this data which is presented here.
Between 2013/14 and 2019/20, the number of 30-day emergency readmissions to hospital in England increased by 26%, from 748,713 to 941,217. The total number of emergency admissions increased by 9% over the same time period, from 6,004,645 to 6,558,727 (data not shown). This resulted in an increase in the emergency readmissions rate, from 12.5% in 2013/14 to 14.4% in 2019/20.
About this data
This indicator measures the percentage of emergency admissions to any hospital in England occurring within 30 days of the most recent discharge from hospital. Admissions for cancer and obstetrics are excluded as they may be part of the patient’s care plan. For more information, please see NHS Digital’s Indicator specification.