How you can prepare

You may feel concerned about how you will cope after you are discharged from hospital. Many people worry they will be a burden on their family, but there are many people who can give different kinds of support.

You may need equipment such as hand rails or a stair lift, or help with everyday chores. You may need medical help to change dressings and give injections, or you may need more personal care to be able to wash and dress. Many people may simply need emotional support or someone to talk to.

Your needs will be assessed in detail by a team of professionals including a ward nurse or your keyworker. After your assessment, the healthcare team will make a discharge plan for you. This includes details about the support you will receive at home including where and how often you will receive it, contact details for all health professionals involved and who to contact in emergencies.

Your relatives or carer will also be involved in your needs assessment to ensure they will also receive the support they need. You will only go home when the hospital staff are happy you and your carer will manage.

How you can prepare

If you need practical help, equipment at home or nursing care, there are many people who can help you and your family.

We also have information and advice for carers of people with cancer.

We’ve included some comments from health professionals and people who have been discharged after a stay in hospital, which you might find helpful. Some are taken from the website and others are from our Online Community. Some names have been changed.

What type of support am I likely to need?

The type of support needed will vary from person to person. You may need help with some or all of 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, hand rails, pressure-relieving cushions or a stair lift
  • healthcare - help with dressing wounds, injections, medication or specialist support for controlling symptoms
  • emotional care - companionship or counselling.

When can I go home?

You should only be discharged from hospital when:

  • your doctors are happy that you are well enough to go home
  • you have had an assessment to look at the support you may need
  • you have been given a written discharge plan of the support that you’ll get
  • the support described in the discharge plan has been put in place so you can safely manage at home.

The doctors and nurses will tell you when you are likely to be ready to go home. This is known as your expected date of discharge (EDD). This date will be reviewed regularly. You will be told if the date has to change because of your condition or because there is a delay organising the help you need.

Your hospital will have its own discharge policy and arrangements for discharging people. The policy should follow government guidance. You can get a copy of their policy from the ward staff.

You may go to the home of a relative or friend when you first leave hospital. The information here still applies in this situation.

How is care and support arranged for me?

If you are worried about how you’ll manage at home, tell the nurses or your keyworker as soon as possible. This will help them plan for your discharge. A keyworker is a healthcare professional – often a nurse – who is your main contact and source of support during your stay in hospital.

If your admission to hospital has been planned in advance, you should be given information about discharge planning before you are admitted. A clinic appointment (if you have one) before your admission to hospital is a good time to discuss any concerns you have about going home again.

Discharge planning can mean that you see lots of different health and social care professionals. It may be difficult to remember who each person is and what they do. If you forget any details, it’s fine to ask for them again.

It can take several days to plan a discharge, especially if a number of different services need to be arranged.

'There are no questions that you can’t ask a keyworker. Nothing is too big, too small or too silly – that’s what they are there for.'

Michael, Clinical Nurse Specialist

Who arranges your discharge?

Usually a ward nurse or your keyworker will make the plans for you to go home. Ward nurses work as a team, so it may not be the same nurse every day. If needed, the nurse or keyworker will involve other healthcare professionals.

Once you get home, you may need ongoing care and support from different organisations and healthcare professionals. If you do, a liaison nurse, nurse discharge coordinator or assessment officer will manage the arrangements.

It can take several days to plan a discharge, especially if a number of different services need to be arranged.

Planning the care you need

The care that’s planned for you will depend on your needs. It’s important that you and your relatives or carers are involved as much as possible in these plans.

While you’re in hospital, the healthcare team looking after you will ask you questions so they can assess your needs and find out what support you may need when you go home.

Your views and concerns are important, and you will be encouraged to be involved in the assessment.

You will be asked for your permission (consent) before the assessment takes place. You’ll also be asked if the information can be shared with other healthcare professionals and organisations.

Questions you may be asked include:

  • Do you have someone who can take you home from hospital?
  • Do you live alone?
  • Do you have relatives or friends who can help you when you get home?
  • Can you manage steps or stairs?
  • How do you manage with personal care, such as bathing and washing?
  • Can you prepare your own meals?
  • Do you need any financial support?
  • Do you have any pets that need looking after?

If you don’t understand or speak English very well, the hospital can arrange for an interpreter to be there when you meet the healthcare team. You may want to bring someone with you to speak on your behalf or translate any conversations.

You should also tell them if you have any speech, sight or hearing problems. You can ask your doctors or nurses to write things down for you, or you can ask for information in large print.

'When I came home, that was the terrifying part. You miss the all-round support that you get. But they did say to me “If you have any worries, just ring us."'


Discharge plan

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

  • the name of the person who is coordinating the plan
  • details of the treatment and support you will get when you go home
  • names and contact details of who will provide the support
  • details of when, and how often, the support will be provided
  • the name of the person to contact if there’s an emergency or if things don’t happen as they should.

The discharge plan should be reviewed regularly to make sure that your needs are being met.

Involving your carers

If you have relatives or carers who will be involved in your care, it’s important that they’re also involved in the needs assessment and discharge planning. Caring can be hard work, both physically and emotionally, and your carers may need help to support them in their caring role when you go home.

People sometimes feel guilty about being a burden to their relatives or friends. But remember that support from other services means your carers will have the help they need to care for you.

Back to Head & neck cancers


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the practical, work and financial side


head and neck cancers and what to expect


with and after treatment for head and neck cancers


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