Changes to the hospital discharge process due to coronavirus

This page was last updated on 3 June 2020 – please consult government guidelines for the most up-to-date information.

Because of the coronavirus situation, the NHS are continuing to ensure that they have necessary capacity within hospitals. Therefore, they are seeking to discharge patients and soon as it is clinically safe to do so.

Below you can find clear advice what the changes to the discharge process are and how this may impact you or your loved one.


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Hospital Discharge Process FAQ:

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Why are hospitals discharging patients from hospitals early?

The NHS are actively trying to relieve pressure from within hospitals and increase the number of available beds to ensure they are in a position to effectively manage the surge of patients expected from the Coronavirus outbreak.

Therefore, for the health and safety of those currently in hospital, hospitals are actively seeking to discharge patients as soon as it is clinically safe to do so. Should additional care or support be required following discharge, the patient’s health team will arrange this. 

At this time, a patient will not be able to remain in hospital after being deemed clinically safe to be discharged should they refuse the additional care offered. However, exceptions may be made for extenuating circumstances. As such, it is important to talk with the patients care coordinator to find the most appropriate option.

How will I know if the NHS plan to discharge my relative from hospital early?

Many hospitals at this time are not allowing visitors, or have visitor restrictions in place This may make it difficult for you to speak with medical professionals regarding the care of your loved one. However, the patient will be kept up-to-date with their care plan and can communicate this to you via phone or video call. 

Should they not be able to do this themselves, a member of their health team will contact you directly to discuss discharge plans, including travel arrangements and if any additional care or support would be required.

How long will it take to discharge my relative from hospital?

As hospitals are actively trying to relieve the pressure caused by Coronavirus, they require the discharge process to be significantly quicker than normal.

Once a patient has been deemed clinically safe to be discharged, the aim will be to transfer them from the ward to a designated discharge area within one hour. From this point the discharge should happen as soon as possible, normally within 2 hours.

We therefore recommend that you stay in touch with your loved one or their medical team whilst they are in hospital and be prepared for a quick discharge.

What care is available after being discharged from hospital early?

Many people who are discharged from hospital still require some additional care and support. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this care will be organised on behalf of the patient and their family by a care coordinator. 

The care offered will generally be within the patient’s own home. For those patients whose needs are too great to return to their own home, a suitable rehabilitation bed or care home will be arranged. Please note that at the current time, patients do not have a choice over their discharge and cannot choose to remain in hospital if they do not accept the care offered.

Who will pay for additional care if it is needed following early hospital discharge?

During the coronavirus outbreak the government has agreed that the NHS will fully fund the cost of new or extended out-of-hospital health and social care packages. This applies to any patient who has been discharged as a result of COVID-19, or would have otherwise been admitted into hospital at this time.

This funding is for a limited time only, to enable quick and safe discharges and help reduce the pressure on hospitals at this time. It is recommended to talk to the patients health team for more details.

Can my elderly relative move into a care home after being discharged from hospital?

You may have seen on the news that, due to the coronavirus outbreak, many care homes are no longer admitting new patients, – this is not the case for all homes. 

Upon being discharged from hospital, the patient will be allocated a care coordinator who will be responsible for finding the level of care needed. For some this will be a care home.

During this time the patient will not be able to stay in hospital while waiting for a vacancy at their preferred care home. They will however be supported in their move to a long term care home once able to do so.

Is there enough social care available to help look after all the patients being discharged from hospital early?

While several care providers have been stretched during the COVID-19 outbreak, Care Sourcer is working closely with them to understand their capacity. We are confident that there is still a significant volume of care available throughout the UK.

Can elderly patients be discharged from hospital with a mild case of coronavirus?

The NHS are actively seeking to discharge patients from hospitals to ensure there are enough available beds for treating the acutely sick patients.

Therefore, it is possible that if someone has a mild case of coronavirus, or is showing symptoms, they may be discharged from hospitals to enable the NHS to focus care on those who have greater needs.

Should anyone be discharged who still requires additional care or support, this will be organised on behalf of the patient and their family by a care coordinator. The care offered will generally be within the patient’s own home, however for some where more support is required a suitable rehabilitation bed or care home will be arranged.

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