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Organisational silos: affecting the discharge of elderly patients

Janet M. Scott (School of Health and Social Care, University of Greenwich, London, UK)
Peri Hawkins (Medway NHS Trust, Gillingham, UK)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 20 June 2008




This paper aims to explore the unintentional formation of internal functional barriers, (organisational silos) during moves towards departmental efficiency, within an acute trust, and the subsequent effects on the discharge process in elderly patients.


This paper presents some of the findings from a qualitative study examining the role of the nurse in the discharge process. Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with a purposively selected cohesive sample of 28 registered nurses, from the medical and elderly care wards in an NHS Acute Trust. The interviews were taped, transcribed and their content analysed.


The problems associated with patient discharge were frequently operational. Each part of the process was hindered, often inadvertently, by attempts on the part of individuals, departments and services to make themselves efficient, without regard for the resulting organisational consequences. This left the ward nurses attempting to overcome the obstacles in an attempt to effectively discharge patients, within a required period of time.

Research limitations/implications

It is recognised that, the perceptions of those not participating in the study may have been different to those who did participate. As a small study in one trust the results may not be generalisable.

Practical implications

It is imperative that evaluation of operational changes is undertaken, with particular regard to the consequences of change, for other services, patients and clients.


This type of study can provide a method of diagnosing organisational problems, especially in areas that are reliant on inter‐professional and departmental collaboration



Scott, J.M. and Hawkins, P. (2008), "Organisational silos: affecting the discharge of elderly patients", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 309-318.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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