When a patient is discharged from hospital, it is usually a straightforward process and a happy occasion to know you are fit and ready to come home! However, the experience of being discharged from a hospital can be an overwhelming one if the healing process is not yet complete, and a patient needs to be discharged home as an outpatient. It’s a transition from a hospital ward, back to the familiarity and comfort of your own home, but also from having nurses on hand 24 hours a day to learning to manage by yourself again. In this blog series, we will be providing information about what you can expect from the hospital discharge process, what information you will be given, and what information you should ask for from the hospital staff. We will also be providing some helpful tips for patients and their loved ones to help them through the process.

Steps Involved in the Discharge Process

The discharge process begins when the hospital consultant who is overseeing your treatment, feels that both A) you are medically fit for discharge, and B) any ongoing healing can be completed at home. At this point, your patient file will be handed to a hospital discharge coordinator (or if none is available, one of the administrative nurses on the ward) to arrange discharge. They then need to complete the following steps before the patient can leave the hospital.

  1. If a patient needs care after returning home, they will set up the care package with a domiciliary care provider. This includes finding the right care provider, agreeing the care hours that need to be provided, and confirming the funding arrangements
  2. Arrange with the hospital pharmacy that a 2-week supply of the patient’s current prescribed medications is prepared to be sent home with the patient
  3. If an occupational therapist has assessed that any equipment is needed by the patient at home, this will be ordered and delivered to the patient’s home
  4. If a patient is unable to walk out of the hospital doors unaided, transport must be arranged to take the patient home
  5. If a patient will need further outpatient review, then this appointment needs to be made so that the patient knows which department will be overseeing their outpatient treatment
  6. Prepare a discharge summary report for the patient to take home with them and arrange for a copy to be sent to their GP for further evaluation. This will detail the patient’s time in the hospital, any changes to their medication, and any follow-up evaluations that are needed by the GP.

The discharge coordinator has a legal obligation to make sure that each of these criteria has been met before a patient can be discharged from hospital. So, whilst some of this may not apply to your loved one, all these steps must still be completed. This is why you may find that even though a doctor has told you that you are free to go home, it could take a further couple of days before you are actually able to leave!

While it is the discharge coordinator who will oversee your discharge, it is important to highlight that the patient, or where appropriate their loved one, is fully involved in the process.

With the current NHS staffing crisis, and the pressures faced by hospital staff to free up hospital beds, it may surprise you that the discharge process continues to be so drawn out and long-winded. Discharge coordinators will often speak to a patient’s next of kin or family to try and hurry this process along, by asking them to make some of these arrangements privately. However, most people don’t even know what a care package is, never mind knowing how to set one up! But don’t panic, we will be going into further detail about what patients and their families can expect, as well as imparting some vital tips on how to make sure that you receive the best treatment at home.

The key is communication, with the nurses and doctors on the ward and with any discharge coordinator that is involved in your, or your loved one’s discharge process. The last thing that anyone wants is an unsuccessful discharge resulting in that patient to be back in hospital within a week.