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Media presentation of hospital discharge to care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic

Eniola Abe (Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Pamela Dawson (School of Health and Wellbeing, Plymouth Marjon University, Plymouth, UK)
Jason Scott (Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)

Journal of Integrated Care

ISSN: 1476-9018

Article publication date: 15 August 2023

Issue publication date: 6 December 2023




At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic the United Kingdom Government implemented a policy to rapid discharge hospital patients into care homes. This study aimed to examine how the media in the United Kingdom portrayed hospital discharge to care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.


This study was a qualitative document analysis. Four sources (Daily Mail, The Independent, The Guardian and BBC News) were selected to represent political orientations encompassing right-wing, centrist and left-wing perspectives, and were searched for mention of hospital discharge, care homes and Covid-19 pandemic between 1st January 2020 and 24th February 2022. Article text was copied verbatim into Microsoft Word documents prior to analysis. Data were thematically analysed, followed by coding the sentiment in the included articles as well as coding the sentiment of themes and sub-themes.


Of 722 identified articles, 133 were eligible for inclusion as the final corpus. Data represented a moralistic narrative consisting of four themes: (1) Government as villain, (2) care homes as antiheroes, (3) patients as ideal victims and (4) moral outcomes. Most of the corpus had a negative sentiment (78.1%). One theme, moral outcomes, had considerably more positive sentiment (32.4%) than others (range 15.1%–21.9%).


A moralistic argument for improving cross-boundary interactions between health and social care services is provided, and the media can play a role pushing cross-boundary working higher up the policy agenda. Future work should examine how direct stakeholders, including those working in healthcare and care home settings, perceived the discharge policy.



This paper forms part of a special section “Exploring the Expansive Horizons of Integrated Care”, guest edited by Dr Axel Kaehne.

Dr Jason Scott is supported by the Multimorbidity, Ageing and Frailty theme of the National Institute for Health and Care Research Applied Research Collaboration North East and North Cumbria. The idea for this research originated from a separate research project funded by The Dunhill Medical Trust.


Abe, E., Dawson, P. and Scott, J. (2023), "Media presentation of hospital discharge to care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic", Journal of Integrated Care, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 300-314.



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