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The hospital discharge process explained

The hospital discharge process explained

It can be complicated to get your elderly parent or relative discharged from hospital; on the other hand you may discover they are about to be discharged and you feel totally unprepared for what needs to happen next.

The hospital should tell you who in the hospital is arranging your relative’s discharge and the date they are likely to leave. A discharge co-ordinator and hospital social worker are likely to be involved if your parent needs support once they have left. There is a protocol that the hospital needs to follow when discharging elderly patients from hospital.

However, if they’re only likely to need help for a week or two with domestic tasks such as shopping and light housework, the person responsible for discharge should look at what they need and suggest local organisations that can help.  

Who is the discharge co-ordinator, and what do they do?

If you’re elderly parent has been in hospital for a while, they may be worried about being discharged from hospital, and worried about who will care for them when they leave.

After-care and support is available for elderly patients coming out of hospital, and this is where the discharge co-ordinator comes in.

The discharge co-ordinator is responsible for overseeing the arrangements when a person is discharged from hospital, and for co-ordinating support and after-care, where needed.

Your elderly relative should not be discharged from hospital until the final checks have been made.

Should they be discharged?

Listed directly below are some key considerations NHS providers need to make when deciding whether a patient is ready to be discharged from hospital. You can refer to these when talking to hospital staff about discharge arrangements for your elderly relative.

  1. Make sure your elderly relative is medically fit (being discharged is decided by the consultant or someone working on their behalf).
  2. Your elderly parent has had an assessment to look at the support they will require once being discharged from hospital. If necessary, a care plan should have been drawn up;
  3. Decide whether the NHS will remain responsible for their care and assess what help they might need when they leave.
  4. If they have a carer, make sure the carer’s needs are assessed particularly in light of any changing needs;
  5. Decide whether the patient would benefit from intermediate care or reablement, essentially rehabilitation (which is often the case post stroke).
  6. Decide who will be paying for the care (NHS, Local Authority or privately by them/you).
  7. If a care plan has been drawn up, it should also be explained to you. This sets out the support the person requires and how after-care teams will meet their assessed needs. The discharge co-ordinator should also advise when the care plan will be reviewed (usually within a few weeks).
  8. Make sure the support that has been described and discussed in the care plan has been put in place prior to being discharged from hospital.

Arrangements will vary depending on individual needs and on whether they can go home, or whether they may need alternative accommodation as a temporary or permanent option.

Coming out of hospital

When the time comes to discharging elderly patients from hospital,  the discharge co-ordinator should have everything sorted. But, don’t forget to check over these things when your elderly relative or friend is ready to be discharged from hospital.

Discharge Checklist

  1. Find out who to contact if you have any questions after leaving hospital – this will probably be the GP, but could also be the specialist nurse or the ward nurse.
  2. Ask what you should look out for when you get home, such as signs of infection.
  3. Make sure that staff have up-to-date contact details.
  4. Make sure everyone involved in the caring of your elderly parent has a a copy of the care plan (you, your elderly parent and a carer if you have one).
  5. Check that carers will be available to support immediately if needed.
  6. Make sure the GP has been notified in writing.
  7. Ensure you have all the medication or other supplies.
  8. Ensure you and/or the carers have been trained on how to use any medical equipment your elderly relative will need to use daily.
  9. Check that transportation has been arranged to get home safely, and that your elderly relative has appropriate clothes to wear for leaving the hospital.
  10. Make sure you have money – for the hospital car park maybe 🙁 – and keys for their home.

When discharging elderly patients from hospital there are follow on steps that need to be considered and arranged. If the discharge is to a care home they should also be told the date and time, and have a copy of the care plan.

  • Independent Age has more great advice for hospital stays and discharge.
  • You might also try the Royal Voluntary Service in your local area, as they provide both in-hospital support as well as at home help, in addition to their “Home from Hospital” initiative.
  • Age UK locally might also be able to help or signpost you to local services. 
  • The British Red Cross provides similar services as well as offering a mobility service providing wheelchairs and other aids.

After being discharged from hospital

Your elderly relatives care should be monitored and reviewed as set out in their care plan.

The care plan should also include details of who to contact if things don’t work out as planned. If the plan includes support from community care services or from a local authority they should check in to make sure everything is going OK within the first two weeks. The care plan should be reviewed annually.

Has your relative been in hospital recently? What was their experience? Were you able to get the help and information you needed? Please share your experience with others in Age Space Forum.

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