Discharge from the hospital is the point at which the patient leaves the hospital and either returns home or is transferred to another facility such as one for rehabilitation or to a nursing home. Discharge involves the medical instructions that the patient will need to fully recover. Discharge planning is a service that considers the patient’s needs after the hospital stay, and may involve several different services such as visiting nursing care, physical therapy, and home blood drawing.
Recently hospital discharge has been in the spotlight with organisations such as Healthwatch running nationwide consultations and local media picking up on incidents following hospital discharges. It is widely acknowledged that patients with more complex care needs and multiple chronic illnesses require a particularly thorough and efficient hospital discharge process. It is therefore all the more important that disabled people and individuals with long term health conditions get their voices heard in sharing their experience of hospital discharge.
An ineffective discharge process can lead to individuals becoming more socially isolated in their home, mental and physical wellbeing deteriorating and even in rare cases death. To ensure that an individuals’ care is properly managed following discharge it is vital that the correct care plan is agreed before the patient leaves the hospital.
There are two types of discharge: Minimal discharge: this is the majority of cases where a minimal amount of support is required.
Complex discharge: for those who require more specialised care after leaving hospital. For those who:
- have ongoing health and social care needs
- need community care services
- need intermediate care
The key focus is on a timely discharge. It is crucial that patients are not in hospital any longer than they need to be (delayed discharge), nor that they are discharged before the patient is fit enough nor adequate support has been arranged (premature discharge).