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Hospital discharge planning

3-minute read

Once you leave hospital, it is important you continue to get the right healthcare from the right people. Discharge planning aims to make sure this happens.

What is discharge planning?

Discharge planning is when the patient, carer, family and any staff involved make the necessary arrangements to ensure there is a smooth transition from hospital to home, residential care or somewhere else.

It involves taking into account things like:

  • follow-up tests and appointments
  • your personal health goals
  • medicines
  • equipment
  • rehabilitation, and more

Ideally, discharge planning starts as soon as you are admitted to hospital. And ideally, it also involves you and your family, as well as hospital staff.

In some cases, it is simple. For example, you might be expected to leave hospital in 2 days with certain medications, and you might be told to see your GP 2 days after you get home.

But if you have a chronic disease or need plenty of ongoing care, it could be more complex. It might involve you, your GP, other healthcare professionals, family members and carers.

All of these people should have a copy of the discharge plan, so that everyone knows what they need to do to ensure that you have continuing care.

Where appropriate, other people or organisations should have a copy too. These could include a residential care facility, rehabilitation services or community services.

What is a discharge summary?

A discharge summary is one part of a discharge plan. It is a document prepared while you are in hospital, usually by your hospital doctor. It could be handed to you and sent to other healthcare professionals, including your GP.

It is important your GP gets a copy of this document so that they know what the problem was, what care you received and how to continue to care for you.

The discharge summary will explain:

  • why you were admitted to hospital
  • which tests were performed
  • which medications you were taking when you were discharged from hospital
  • which other medications you have taken in the past
  • which medical or surgical procedures were performed
  • whether you had any allergies or bad reactions
  • which future services have been arranged

Tips for a safe hospital discharge

Here are some questions you could ask yourself before you are discharged from hospital:

  • Do I understand what happened in hospital?
  • Do I understand which treatment I need now - and in the future?
  • Do I know which medications to take and when? Do I have enough of those medications until I can see my GP?
  • Do I know when my follow-up appointments are?
  • Has my GP been informed of my admission and of my discharge plan?
  • Do I need care from family members? If so, has there been a family meeting? Does everyone understand their roles and responsibilities?
  • Do I have transport arranged?
  • Are there any concerns or questions I should raise before I am discharged from hospital?

If you can’t answer those questions, please ask your hospital doctors and nurses for more information. It is their responsibility to make sure you have it all. If you still don't have everything you need, ask for a nursing supervisor.

More information

Find a healthcare service with healthdirect’s Service Finder tool or call 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) for 24-hour health advice and information.

Use this Question Builder tool to help prepare for a medical appointment by creating a list of questions to ask your doctor.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2019

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