What can you expect when you’re discharged from hospital?

The usual processes the NHS follows to discharge you from hospital have changed during the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what you can expect when it’s time to leave hospital.
Woman in hospital smiling at the camera with a man pushing a woman in a wheelchair in the background

The current guidance for hospital discharge is set out in the COVID-19 Hospital Discharge Service Requirements from the Department of Health and Social Care.

What should happen when you arrive at hospital

When you arrive at hospital, you should be given information explaining that the process of leaving hospital has changed due to COVID-19.

These changes mean that while you and your loved ones will still receive high quality care in hospital, you must be discharged as soon as you no longer need care in hospital. For most patients leaving hospital this will mean that, where it is needed, the assessment and organising of ongoing care will take place when they are in their own home.

What should happen before you leave hospital

1) Discussion

When you are ready to be discharged from hospital, your health team will discuss this process with you, and you should be escorted to the hospital discharge lounge within one hour.

2) Hospital lounge and patient transport

While you are waiting in the hospital discharge lounge, the discharge co-ordinators should discuss with you your transport home, and support with immediate practical measures such as shopping and the turning the heating on, if there is no one at home to help you do this.

They should also discuss with you whether you are likely to need any longer-term recovery support.

3) Future care

If you need immediate care or support on the day of your discharge from hospital, this should be arranged by a care coordinator before you leave hospital.

If you may need longer-term recovery support, you should be informed that a health professional will visit you in your home or other place of discharge to assess your ongoing healthcare needs after your leave hospital.

If you are able to manage your own recovery without significant additional support from the NHS, you should be given information about voluntary or community support services you can contact, and informed that you can request a formal assessment at a later date if your situation changes.

If your condition means that you will be discharged to a care home or other place with additional support, you may not be given a choice about where you will go, but you should be supported to move to your preferred long-term care home later.

4) Contact information

Before you are discharged you should be given information about who to contact if you need further health advice or support after leaving hospital.

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What should happen after discharge – your continuing support needs

If you need ongoing recovery support after discharge, you should be visited in your home by a community health professional who will arrange this.

This could include things like:

  • Whether any changes are needed to make your home safe and comfortable 
  • Ensuring there are people to support you and keep you company 
  • Whether you might need support for daily tasks (e.g. washing, getting dressed, cooking) 
  • Whether a short-term wheelchair loan would be helpful for you
  • Whether you needed support taking any medication 

This should happen the day you leave hospital or the day after and this support should then be made quickly available.

Will I face any costs?

During the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, all community healthcare support after discharge from hospital was fully funded by the NHS, to ensure patients moved on from their hospital stay as quickly as possible.

From the 1 September, as the COVID-19 pandemic becomes less urgent, new funding arrangements for post-discharge health and care support will come into effect.

Your ongoing health support will be free for up to six weeks after you leave hospital. During this time, your eligibility for further funding will be assessed alongside consideration of your longer-term care needs.

Your healthcare team should discuss options with you if it is a possibility that you will be asked to pay for your care.

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