It can be a very worrying time if you are thinking about caring for someone who is coming out of hospital and who can no longer care for themselves in the same way as before.

You may not have considered yourself a carer until now and so will need to come to terms with a completely new situation – perhaps, for example, bringing home an older relative who used to live alone. Or you may have been caring for someone at home but are now unsure whether you can provide the extra care they will need after their hospital stay.

Hospital staff should inform and involve carers in decisions throughout the patient’s stay in hospital and in particular in the planning for the patient’s discharge from hospital. Carers have told us that sometimes this does not happen as it should.

We set out the process for planning for coming out of hospital as it should happen so you can challenge decisions should you feel that you are not being listened to or involved sufficiently.


The discharge process

Planning for a patient’s discharge should take place at the earliest opportunity. You and the patient should be involved at all stages of planning for discharge. Hospital and social care staff should work together to manage all parts of the discharge process. This is to ensure that the patient is suitably cared for after they have left hospital and not at risk of being unable to cope.

You should be given an opportunity to talk about your needs as a carer and what help you may need to look after the patient. It is your legal right to have your needs addressed and this is achieved by having a carer’s assessment.

Before the patient leaves hospital the following should also happen:

– You and the patient should expect to be given both verbal and written information, with contact details and any relevant information about future treatment and care. The information should be available in a language suitable for you, large print or Braille.
– A ‘discharge coordinator’ (or ward care coordinator) should be available to coordinate the planning process and act as a key person for you to contact to find out about the discharge plans.
– In situations where a patient does not want you to be involved or have information about their care, you should be informed of this and advised of your own right to an assessment.
– If the patient lacks mental capacity you may be able to make certain decisions about health and welfare matters if you have a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) dealing with health and welfare matters. If there is no LPA the law requires professionals to act in the patient’s best interests and you should be involved in the decision making process.

Carers UK have even more information about this on their website, which you can read here, and we recommend you do.