NPC Archive Item: Planning the discharge and the transfer of patients from hospital and intermediate care

NOTE – This is an archive post from the NPC and has not been updated since first publication. Therefore, some hyperlinks may no longer be working.

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30 April 2010

In March 2010 the Department of Health published the guide ‘Ready to go? Planning the discharge and transfer of patients from hospital and intermediate care’.1 The aim of this resource is to provide support and advice to practitioners and organisations on how best to manage the discharge of individuals and transfer of care between settings. Discharge or care transfer is an essential part of care management in any setting.1

The document stresses that timely discharge and care transfer requires clinicians and others to plan, communicate, negotiate and ensure a smooth transition for individuals and their families. Underpinning this is the need for:

  • Effective communication with individuals and across settings;
  • Alignment of services to ensure continuity of care;
  • Efficient systems and processes to support discharge and care transfer;
  • Clear clinical management plans;
  • Early identification of discharge or transfer date;
  • Identified named lead co-ordinator;
  • Organisational review and audit; and
  • Seven-day-a-week proactive discharge planning.

Healthcare professionals involved in the discharge and care transfer of patients should make use of the 10 key steps and supporting principles set out in the document to review their admission and discharge procedures in order to achieve the key messages: ‘Check it out, ask the patient and make it happen’. There is also a range of practical tools and tips provided to help individual practitioners and the multi-disciplinary team to evaluate their communication with patients and family/carers, and within the team.

In particular, Step 8 of the recommended 10 steps, ‘Plan discharges and transfers to take place over seven days to deliver continuity of care for the patient’, makes reference to the medicines management components of discharge and transfer.  These include: medication review on admission, putting a medication care plan in place, and offering support with compliance.

The document also refers to appendix 5 of ‘Discharge from hospital: pathway, process and practice’ (2003)2 which is devoted to medicines management on discharge and transfer and includes an action plan and practical examples.

What does this mean to medicines management?
Good medicines management is essential to successful planned discharge and transfer of patients between care settings.

The benefits of implementing medicines reconciliation to support care transfers are clear. Training staff to collect, check, and communicate appropriate information about a patient’s medicines will help to ensure that every time a patient moves from one care setting to another their medical notes are accurate, complete and presented in a timely manner.  The use of minimum datasets is just one useful resource tool that can be used to help support documentation and reporting during the transfer of care between settings.

How does this relate to other publications or evidence?
‘Ready to go? Planning the discharge and transfer of patients from hospital and intermediate care’1 follows on from the Department of Health’s (2003) document ‘Discharge from hospital pathway, process and practice’.

Further detailed information on topics that may support effective discharge planning and transfer of patients is available on the NPC website. These include; developing networks, effective communication within medicines management, effective team working for medicines management, reducing risk in medicines management and reducing medication errors.


  1. Department of Health (2010). Ready to go? Planning the discharge and the transfer of patients from hospital and intermediate care.
  2. Department of Health (2003). ‘Discharge from hospital pathway, process and practice’.

All websites last accessed 15th April 2010

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