Going home from hospital

Your healthcare team will help make a discharge plan of the support you will get when you leave hospital.

When can I go home from hospital?

Soon after you are admitted to hospital, the healthcare team will help you plan for your discharge. They will:

  • assess what your needs might be when you go home
  • involve team members to help meet those needs, such as a physiotherapist, occupational therapist (OT), social worker or community nurse
  • arrange for any equipment or services that you might need when you get home.

They will decide when you are likely to go home. This is known as your expected date of discharge (EDD).

Each hospital has its own discharge policy. The ward manager or the hospital’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) should be able to give you a copy.

You should only be discharged when:

  • your healthcare team think you are well enough
  • you have a written discharge plan describing the support you will get
  • the support has been organised so you can safely manage at home.

What help will I need at home?

The type of support you will need depends on the reason you have been in hospital. You might have had treatment such as surgery or chemotherapy. Or you might have been in hospital because of problems caused by cancer or its treatments.

You may need help with some or all the following:

  • personal care – bathing, dressing and going to the toilet
  • domestic chores – cooking cleaning and shopping
  • home adaptations and equipment – a raised toilet seat, shower seat, handrails, pressure-relieving cushions or a stair lift
  • healthcare – help with dressing wounds, injections, medication or specialist support for controlling symptoms
  • emotional care – company or counselling
  • finances – call our financial team on 0808 808 00 00 for guidance on what financial help or benefits you may be able to get.

If your stay in hospital was planned, you may have be given information about discharge planning before you went in. If you have a clinic appointment before going into hospital, you can tell the doctor or nurse about any worries you have about going home.

Who arranges my discharge?

Usually, a hospital discharge team, ward nurse or keyworker will make plans for you to go home.

Nurses in the ward work as a team, so you may not see the same nurse every day. They will talk to each other about the support you will need when you go home. They may also involve other health and social care professionals, such as a:

  • physiotherapist
  • occupational therapist
  • social worker.

It can take a few days or weeks to plan a discharge. This depends on the services that need to be arranged.

You might see different health and social care professionals while your discharge is being planned. You can print and use this key contacts table (PDF) to write down their contact details.

How is my discharge planned?

Planning your care will depend on your needs. It is important that you, your family and carers are involved in these plans. 

Tell your healthcare team about any worries you have and the help you may need. This makes it easier for them to give you the right support.

Needs assessment

While you are in hospital, the healthcare team will ask you questions to understand your needs before you go home. This helps them find out what support you may need. They may ask:

  • Do you live alone?
  • Do you have someone who can take you home?
  • Do you have family or friends who can help you when you get home?
  • How do you manage personal care, such as bathing and washing?
  • Do you think you can prepare your own meals at home?
  • Can you manage steps or stairs, and is there a bathroom downstairs at home?
  • Do you think you will need financial support?
  • Do you have any pets that will need looking after?

Your team will ask you if the information you give can be shared with other healthcare professionals and organisations.

Before your needs assessment

Before your needs assessment, the person assessing you should ask if there is anything that can help you, such as an interpreter.

If you have sight problems, you can ask for information in large print. If you find communicating difficult, a family member, carer or advocate can speak on your behalf if you wish. They can take notes during the assessment if you are unable to.

After your needs assessment

After your needs assessment, your local council will decide if they will provide any services. Each local council has its own rules, so the services provided may be different depending on where you live.

If you are in a private hospital, talk to your healthcare team about what care and support may be available to you when you go home. You may need to contact your local adult social services department.

The NHS website and gov.uk have more information about finding your local social services department.

Discharge plan

After the needs assessment, your healthcare team will plan your discharge. This is often called a discharge plan. It may include:

  • 24-hour emergency contact details to use if you become unwell, or the person caring for you needs urgent help 
  • details of the treatment and support you will get from the community healthcare team when you go home
  • names and contact details of who will provide the support
  • any equipment and aids, such as a raised toilet seat
  • changes made to the home, such as rails in the bathroom.

You can ask the ward staff for a copy of your discharge plan before you go home. 

Intermediate care (reablement)

Some people need a short period of care when they are discharged from hospital to help them recover and be independent. This is called home-based intermediate care or reablement. This care is paid for by the NHS and can last up to 6 weeks.

During this time, health and social care professionals support you to do things yourself such as: 

  • washing or dressing
  • preparing meals
  • moving around safely.

Your health and social care professionals will regularly review how you are getting on. If they think you may need more than 6 weeks to recover and become independent, they will refer you to local adult social care services. 

You will have a needs assessment to determine if you need longer term care.

Holistic needs assessment

You may have a holistic needs assessment (HNA) before going home. It is called ‘holistic’ because the assessment looks at needs or concerns you may have about an area of your life such as:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • practical
  • financial
  • spiritual.

You will be asked to give a score for how much each concern affects you. Your keyworker or another professional will make a personalised care and support plan. This should help address your concerns and provide details of other services that might help. You and your GP should get a copy of the plan.

Care plans

If your needs assessment finds that you need care and support, a care plan will be created for you. This is an agreement between the person who needs care and health and social care professionals. 

Your local council must provide you with services to meet your needs. It is important that you are involved with making your care plan, and that you understand the results of any assessment. 

You will get a copy of the plan and have a named person to contact if there is anything you are unsure about.

A care and support plan should include:

  • the type of support needed
  • how this support will be given
  • how much money the council will spend on your care.

Some services are paid for by the NHS or your local council. But you may need to pay for other services. 

You may have a financial assessment (means test) to see if you need to pay anything. The NHS website has more information about paying for services. 

Help can be provided by adult social care services or arranged with other organisations such as charities 

Involving your carers

If you have a carer, they should be included in the needs assessment and discharge planning.

Caring can be hard work, both physically and emotionally. If someone will be looking after you when you go home, they can ask for a carer’s assessment to see what support may help.

They will need to contact adult social services at their local council and ask for a carer’s assessment. The NHS website and gov.uk have more information on finding your local social services team.

Going home

Before you leave hospital, you may find it useful to use our  hospital discharge checklist (PDF). You can tick off the things you know have been done.

Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will usually give you advice to follow before you go home. For example, if you had surgery, they will give you advice on looking after your wound and looking out for signs of infection. They may also give you advice on activities you should not do, such as lifting or driving.

Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will explain the possible side effects if you have had treatments such as:

It is very important to follow the advice you are given by your hospital team. This includes who you should contact about any concerns.

You should also know what emergency number to use if you feel unwell or have an urgent problem.

Before you leave hospital

Before you leave hospital, your hospital team will give you the following.

A letter for your GP

Your hospital doctor will send a letter called a discharge summary to your GP. This letter is usually sent electronically so that your GP gets it within 24 hours of your discharge. You are usually given a copy to take home with you.

The letter will include information about:

  • your diagnosis
  • the type of treatment you had in hospital
  • any medicines you are taking or changes to your medication
  • the follow -up you may need.

Any medicines you need

If you need medicines when you go home, you will usually be given enough for 7 days. You will need to get a repeat prescription for any medicines you need to keep taking. 

You can usually get this from your GP. But some drugs, such as chemotherapy or other cancer drugs, can only be prescribed by your hospital doctor and collected from the hospital pharmacy.

Make sure you ask your GP surgery for your repeat prescription before your medicine runs out. This is because it can take up to 48 hours for your prescription to be ready to collect.

If you are registered for patient online services with your GP, you can order your repeat prescription through the NHS website.

We have more information about health costs.

Advice about your medicines

Always take your medicines exactly as they have been prescribed. This is important to make sure they work as well as possible for you.

If you find it difficult to remember when to take your medicines, a pharmacist might organise them for you. They can use one of the following:

  • Dosette boxes are plastic boxes with small compartments that clearly show which tablet needs to be taken at what time of day.
  • Calendar blister packs have the day and time when the medicine should be taken printed on the pack.

These are not suitable for all medicines and may not be free. They are usually prescribed by a GP following an assessment of your needs.

You can also buy pill organisers without an assessment or a prescription. These are plastic boxes with compartments for different days and times of the day. A family member or carer can put your medicines into these.

Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacist

Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists are specially trained to:

  • understand the different types of cancer treatments
  • answer your questions about medication
  • listen to your concerns and provide emotional support

We have more information about finding a Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacist near you.

Oxygen treatment

Oxygen is used to help people whose oxygen levels are low all the time. It is not a treatment for breathlessness. It is only suitable for some people. If your doctor thinks you need oxygen at home, they will refer you to a specialist.

You have oxygen using a face mask or through small tubes that sit under the nostrils (nasal cannula).

If you need oxygen for short periods of time, your doctor may recommend oxygen that is stored in a cylinder.

If you need it for longer periods, you may need an oxygen concentrator. This is a machine that filters oxygen from the air around you.

If you want to go out once you are back at home, you can get a small moveable (portable) cylinder. If you use a wheelchair, you can have it fitted to this.

Using oxygen safely

Oxygen can be a fire hazard, so it is important to use it safely at home. No one should smoke or use flammable products near oxygen. E-cigarettes or vapes can also be a fire risk. 

Always keep the oxygen at least 3 metres away from flames and heat sources.

You can find out more about oxygen treatment from Asthma and Lung UK.

Key contacts

You will get a list of names and contact details to use if you are worried when you get home. Keep these somewhere safe so that you or a family member, friend or carer can use them.

You can print and use this key contacts table (PDF) to write down the contact details of the different people who may be involved in your care when you leave hospital.

If you are unhappy with your care

Your healthcare team will work closely with you to make sure you have the support you need after leaving hospital. But there may be times you are unhappy about your ongoing care. Talk to your cancer doctor, specialist nurse or key worker first before you go home.

If you still need further help or advice, the hospital Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) can support you.

If you are unhappy about care provided by a care agency, then talk directly with them first. If social services have arranged your ongoing care, you can also talk with a social worker at your local social services department. 

Age UK has more information on raising concerns or making a complaint.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 April 2023
Next review: 01 April 2026
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.