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Disputes over payments for short stay patients are wasting NHS time, says watchdog

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e2868 (Published 19 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2868
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

The NHS in England is wasting time, distorting budgets, and reducing data quality because it does not follow a consistent policy for classifying short stay patients.

The same patient might be classified as an outpatient at one hospital and an inpatient at another, costing five to six times as much, although the treatment is identical, says the Audit Commission in a report. It blames poor guidance rather than deliberate manipulation for such discrepancies, and says that the classifications are a frequent cause of dispute between commissioners and providers, tying up managers who have better things to do.

Payment by results demands that each episode of care should be recorded appropriately in order that the right payment is made. But there is an area of confusion over short …

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