‘Get hospital discharge right before winter’

Joint research by Heathwatch England and the British Red Cross has looked at patient experience during the first five months of the pandemic.
Hospital bed

Patients said they felt unready to leave hospital and missed out on vital follow-up visits and assessments, according to a new report published October 27, 2020.

Our national body, Healthwatch England and the British Red Cross, surveyed more than 500 patients and carers between late March and the end of August while eight local Healthwatch across England carried out 61 in-depth interviews.


  • 82% of respondents did not receive a follow-up visit and assessment at home
  • 18% had unmet needs relating to equipment, medication or advice
  • 19% felt rushed and unprepared to leave hospital
  • 35% did not get given a contact for further advice
  • 30% who were tested for Covid in hospital, did not get results before they left
  • Overall patients and families were very positive about healthcare staff efforts

Sir Robert Francis QC, chair of Healthwatch England, said: “In March, hospitals were asked to discharge patients with little or no notice and the speed with which this took place was important but led to mistakes. We do not want to detract from the heroic efforts of those on the frontline, who often put themselves at great risk to care for their patients, but services and system leaders have now had more time to prepare.

“It’s essential that we learn from what people have shared with us about the impact that a poorly-handled discharge can have on them and their loved ones. Taking action now will not only reduce the risk to patients but will also help improve the way people leave hospital in the future.”

How things should improve

  • Ensure patients get post-discharge check-ins by phone or in person

  • Have discharge checklists which include transport home and equipment needed

  • Assign a single point of contact for patients and families who need further support

  • Use voluntary sector organisations to help deliver medicines to patients

  • Boost community care capacity

British Red Cross staff and volunteers work across the country to help get patients safely home from hospital. Its chief executive Mike Adamson said: “Simple interventions, like getting equipment and medicine delivered, or follow-up visits, can make the difference between good recovery or someone regressing to the point of readmission - precisely at the time we want people to stay well, and stay at home.”

Go to the report

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