How should it work?

Plans for your discharge should start from the day you arrive in hospital and you should be fully involved in this process.

Each hospital will have its own discharge policy. You should be able to get information about this – ask your discharge coordinator, the ward manager or the hospital’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). You shouldn’t be discharged from hospital until:

  • a doctor says you’re well enough
  • you’ve been given an assessment if it looks like you’ll need care or support when you leave. This may happen before or after you leave hospital, but if it happens afterwards, any support you need should still be provided by the NHS in the meantime.
  • any support you do need has been put in place, so that it’s safe for you to leave hospital.

If care is being provided for you when you leave hospital, make sure you know who will provide it and how you can contact them. Ask the person or team in charge of your discharge if you’re unsure of anything.

If you think you’re being discharged before you’re well enough to go home, or you have any other concerns about your discharge, call our Helpline and arrange to speak to an adviser.

Free short-term care

You might be entitled to some free short-term care to help you recover when you leave hospital. The type of support given will depend on your health and care needs. You could be offered:

  • rehabilitation – such as physiotherapy to improve your mobility or speech therapy to help you communicate or swallow
  • intermediate care or reablement – care provided free of charge for up to six weeks, or longer if necessary, to help you regain and maintain independence, and to help prevent future hospital stays
  • ongoing care at home from community nursing staff such as district nurses.

You may need equipment or home adaptations – for example, a hoist or grab rails. If you’re assessed as needing equipment, or adaptations that cost £1,000 or less, these must be provided free of charge regardless of your finances.

Long-term care

Long-term support after a hospital stay could include care services at home or in a care home.

If it seems you’ll need ongoing care after a hospital stay, your local council must carry out an assessment of your care needs. This may need to be done before you leave hospital. You may qualify for some funding from your council or you may need to pay for all of your care yourself. For more information, see our factsheet First steps in getting help with your care needs.

Long-term care may also be fully funded by the NHS through NHS Continuing Healthcare. This is for people with a high level of health and care needs. If it seems this may be appropriate for you, you’ll be given an assessment to work out whether you qualify. You can also ask for an assessment before you leave hospital. If you do qualify, all of the care you’re assessed as needing will be paid for by the NHS. NHS Continuing Healthcare isn’t means-tested.

Before you leave

Before you leave, make sure any care or support you’ll need has been put in place, and that you know who to contact about these arrangements. If you’ve been given any new equipment or aids to help you live independently, check that you know how to use these.

Make sure that your transport home has been arranged, whether this is a lift from someone you know, a taxi or hospital patient transport. If you’re on a low income, you may be able to get help with travel costs. See Help with health costs for more information.

Check that you have your personal belongings with you, including any valuables you placed in a hospital safe. If you left your door key with a friend or neighbour, make sure they will be available to let you in.

Welcome home services

Some charities and other local organisations offer Home from Hospital services. This might involve someone visiting you at home for a short time after you’re discharged, to help with tasks such as shopping, collecting pensions or picking up prescriptions. See if Age UK, the British Red Cross or The Royal Voluntary Service runs these services in your area.

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