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NHS hospital services

Being discharged from hospital

Each hospital will have its own discharge policy. You should be able to get a copy from the ward manager or the hospital's Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).

Once you are admitted to hospital, your treatment plan, including details for discharge or transfer, is developed and discussed with you. A discharge assessment will determine whether you need more care after you leave the hospital.

You should be fully involved in the assessment process. With your permission, family or carers will also be kept informed and given the opportunity to contribute. If you need help putting your views across, an independent advocate may be able to help.

Read about getting back to normal after an operation.

What is meant by minimal or complex discharge?

If the assessment determines you'll need little or no care, this is called a minimal discharge. But if you need more specialised care after you leave hospital, your discharge or transfer procedure is referred to as a complex discharge.

If you need this type of care, you'll receive a care plan detailing your health and social care needs. You should be fully involved in this process.

A care plan should include details of:

  • the treatment and support you'll get when you're discharged
  • who will be responsible for providing support, and how to contact them
  • when, and how often, support will be provided
  • how the support will be monitored and reviewed
  • the name of the person co-ordinating the care plan
  • who to contact if there's an emergency or things don't work as they should
  • information about any charges that will need to be paid (if applicable)

For more advice, see Care and support plans.

You'll also 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.


If you're given any medication to take home, you will usually be given enough for the following seven days. The letter to your GP will include 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. 


If you are registered for patient online services with your GP, you could order your repeat prescription through NHS Choices. Simply look up the GP practice using the Services near you facility. Find out more about GP online services.

TipYour local pharmacy can help you get on top of your new medicines. Simply arrange for a chat and ask for a New Medicines Service.

Medical devices

If you're sent home with a medical device, check that you know how to set it up and have been trained how to use it. Also, make sure you know where to get any supplies you need to use the device and who to call if you need help.

Organising transport

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

Returning home

If you're 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 regularly.

If this can't be arranged, make sure you have plenty of food, drink, and other essential items at home. 

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. 

Find out what a fit note is and when you may need a fit note.


Don't forget to:

  • provide a forwarding address for any post
  • collect your hospital discharge letter for your GP, or arrange to have it sent directly to your GP
  • ensure you have the medication you need
  • get a copy of your care plan (if applicable) – if you're being discharged to a care home, the care home should also be told the date and time of your discharge and have a copy of the care plan
  • arrange your follow-up appointment, if you need one
  • ask for any medical certificates you may need 

Feedback and complaints

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

If you want to complain about how a hospital discharge was handled, speak to the staff involved to see if the problem can be resolved informally. Alternatively, speak to a Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) member at the hospital.

PALS offers confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters. You can look up local PALS offices on this site.

You could also contact a NHS Complaints Advocacy service. Your local council will be able to tell you who the local advocacy provider is.

If you wish to raise a formal complaint, follow the NHS complaints procedure.

TipRate or review a hospital on NHS Choices – simply use the Services near you tool to find the hospital you wish to comment on. You can either leave an overall star rating or post a review for other patients to read.


Page last reviewed: 07/03/2016

Next review due: 07/03/2018

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