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NHS hospital services

Being discharged from hospital

Each hospital will have its own policy and arrangements for discharging patients. Normally, when you arrive in hospital, the professionals in charge of your care will develop a plan for your treatment, including your discharge or transfer. This is usually done within 24 hours of your arrival.

You will be able to discuss arrangements for your discharge with staff. This will help to ensure that you have everything you need for a full recovery when you return home.

Your discharge or transfer date will be affected by:

  • how quickly your health improves while you are in hospital
  • what support you will need after you return home

If you are unhappy about your suggested discharge or transfer date, raise your concerns with the hospital staff. During your stay in hospital you have the right to discharge yourself from hospital at any time.

When you leave hospital you will be given a letter for your GP, providing information about your treatment and future care needs. Give this letter to your GP as soon as possible.  

Minimal discharge

Most people who are discharged from hospital need only a small amount of care after they leave. This is called 'minimal discharge'

Complex discharge

If you need more specialised care after you leave hospital, your discharge or transfer procedure is referred to as a 'complex discharge'. For example, you may:

  • have ongoing health and social care needs
  • need community care services
  • need intermediate care
  • be discharged to a residential home or care home

As well as hospital staff, your discharge or transfer may involve other healthcare professionals, such as your GP or a community nurse. Organisations outside the NHS may also be involved. For example, local authorities or independent and voluntary organisations.


If you are given any medication to take home, you will usually be given enough for the following seven days. You will also be given a letter to give to your GP, which includes information about your medication.

If you need to keep taking your medication, make sure you arrange to get a repeat prescription from your GP before your hospital supply runs out. Some surgeries require up to 48 hours’ working-day notice for repeat prescriptions.  

Medical devices

If you are sent home with a medical device, check that you know how to set it up at home and have had any training or instructions you need to use it. Also, make sure you know where to get any supplies you may need to use the device and who to call if you need help with it.

Organising transport

If you are being discharged, arrange for a relative or friend to collect you. Let the staff know if they need to make other transport arrangements for you. 

Returning home

If you are returning home, make sure you have everything you need for your recovery. It may be helpful to get a friend or relative to stay with you or visit you regularly.

If this can’t be arranged, make sure that you have plenty of food, drinks and other essential items in your home, including basic painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Buy food that is easy to prepare, such as frozen ready meals, cans of soup or beans, and staples, such as rice and pasta.  

Sick notes

You may need a sick note or information for insurance companies or your employer. Speak to the nurse in charge of your ward if you need a form to be completed.  


Remember to do the following before you leave hospital:

  • Provide a forwarding address for any post.
  • Make sure you have collected your hospital discharge letter for your GP. Or have it sent directly to your GP in the post, by fax or by email.
  • Make sure you have the medication you need.
  • Make a follow-up appointment if you need one.
  • Ask the nurse in charge of your ward for any medical certificates you may need.
  • Collect any cash and valuables you may have handed in for safekeeping.
  • Check that you have all your belongings.

Page last reviewed: 24/09/2014

Next review due: 24/09/2016

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