The process of leaving hospital is widely referred to as hospital discharge. Each hospital will have its own policy, which you should request as soon as you are able to after arrival in hospital so you can start planning your discharge with those responsible for your care.
Most hospitals have a dedicated Hospital Discharge Planner whose responsibility is to ensure smooth transition from hospital back home ensuring the right on-going care package is in place if required. If you require care after hospital discharge, the provider you choose should be working closely with the discharge team at the hospital and other healthcare professionals involved in your care to ensure everything is in place for you when you leave.
Planning your or a loved one’s hospital discharge is key for effective, ongoing care in the community. Many patients who are discharged from hospital will have ongoing care needs that must be met in the community. This ongoing care comes in many forms, like support from an Occupational Therapist, daily support from carers to complete daily activities, or regular visits from district nurses to administer medication.
There is a wide variety of care available in the community, and it ideally should be planned in advance prior to returning home, to ensure that there is no gap in care between the discharge from hospital and returning home.
Discharge planning is the process where the hospital team considers what support might be required by the patient in the community, refers the patient to these services, and then liaises with these services to manage the patient’s discharge.
Patient information must be handed over from the hospital to the community team so an informed plan of care can be put into place.
Frustratingly up and down the country there are countless delays to hospital discharge. This is when an individual is deemed medically fit to be discharged, but discharge cannot take place. Generally, this is because of delays in organising ongoing post discharge care. This can cause considerable distress and a long hospital stay for someone who is well enough to go home. It is important that you plan what you will need in terms of care after hospital discharge as soon as you can and put plans in place to speed up your discharge when the time comes.
Every individual hospital has its own discharge policy. You should be able to get a copy from the Ward Manager or the hospital’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).
Once you are admitted to hospital, your treatment plan, including details for discharge or transfer, will be developed and discussed with you.
A discharge assessment will determine whether you need more care after you leave the hospital.
You should be fully involved in the assessment process. With your permission, family or carers will also be kept informed and given the opportunity to contribute.
If you need help putting your views across, an independent advocate may be able to help.
Poor discharge planning can lead to poor patient outcomes and delayed discharge planning can cause patients to remain in hospital longer than necessary, when they could be more easily and comfortably cared for in their own home.
Patient discharge can become unsafe if a patient is discharged with no home care plan, or kept in hospital due to poor coordination across the different services required. Lack of integration and poor joint working between, for example, hospital and community health services can mean patients are discharged without the home support they need
Planning an efficient and safe discharge from hospital has added advantages during a pandemic. Due to the increased possibility of cross contamination within a hospital setting, risk of contracting a virus may be higher than if you were recovering in your own home.
Having an effective care plan in place prior to your hospital discharge could result in your hospital stay being shortened and your recovery continuing at home supported by the community teams.