Room for one more? A review of the literature on 'inappropriate' admissions to hospital for older people in the English NHS

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This paper reports the findings of a review of the literature on emergency admissions to hospital for older people in the UK, undertaken between May and June 2014 at the Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham. This review sought to explore: the rate of in/appropriate emergency admissions of older people in the UK; the way this is defined in the literature; solutions proposed to reduce the rate of inappropriate admissions; and the methodological issues which particular definitions of ‘inappropriateness’ raise. The extent to which a patient perspective is included in these definitions of inappropriateness was also noted, given patient involvement is such a key policy priority in other areas of health policy.
Despite long-standing policy debates relatively little research has been published on formal rates of ‘inappropriate’ emergency hospital admissions for older people in the English NHS in recent years. What has been produced indicates varying rates of in/appropriateness, inconsistent ways of defining appropriateness, and a lack of focus on the possible solutions to address the problem. Significantly, patient perspectives are lacking, and we would suggest that this is a key factor in fully understanding how to prevent avoidable admissions. With an ageing population, significant financial challenges and a potentially fragmented health and social care system, the issue of the appropriateness of emergency admission is a pressing one which requires further research, greater focus on the experiences of older people and their families, and more nuanced contextual and evidence-based responses.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages32
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Early online date5 Oct 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Oct 2015


  • Older people, Emergency hospital admission, Prevention, Health and social care, Patient and public involvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas