590 people's stories of leaving hospital during Covid-19

A joint report between Healthwatch England and the British Red Cross

During lockdown, the British Red Cross helped patients come home from hospital. Capturing nearly 600 people’s experiences of hospital discharge during the pandemic, this new report assesses the impact of new hospital discharge emergency measures implemented in 2020 to free up beds for coronavirus (Covid-19) patients.

The findings and recommendations set out in this report build on Healthwatch England’s Safely Home report (PDF) and the British Red Cross Home to the Unknown and In and out of hospital (PDF) reports. 

Download icon Download the report (PDF)

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For more information, please email , senior health policy and influencing officer, on emmacookson@redcross.org.uk.

Two British Red Cross volunteers help a patient sitting in a wheelchair and covered in a blanket into a Red Cross patient transport ambulance.


Key findings

  • Overall, patients and families were very positive about healthcare staff, praising their efforts during such a difficult time
  • 82% of respondents did not receive a recommended follow-up visit and assessment at home after discharge from hospital. Almost one in five of those also reported having unmet needs, such as equipment, medication or advice.
  • Some people felt their discharge was rushed, with around one in five (19%) feeling unprepared to leave hospital.
  • Over a third (35%) of respondents and their carers did not get a contact for further advice, despite this being a component of the national policy. 

Our recommendations

Ahead of the winter and a potential second wave of coronavirus hospital admissions, people’s experiences of hospital discharge could be improved if health and social care teams:

  • Roll out post-discharge check-ins: whether by phone or in person. During these check-ins people should be asked about their physical, practical, social, psychological and financial needs, and should be linked into other support services as appropriate.  
  • Adopt discharge checklists: hospitals should be provided with the tools and guidance to better determine people’s needs on leaving hospital. As part of this people should be asked about their transport and equipment needs. 
  • Provide everyone leaving hospital with a follow-up contact: patients and carers should be assigned to a single point of contact for further support, in line with the national policy. 
  • Improve the administration of medication: information about administering and managing medication should always be provided to patients and their carers. Where needed patients should be linked to voluntary sector partners who can help them access and pick up medicine.  
  • Boost community care capacity and recognise the value of the voluntary care sector: the ‘discharge to assess’ model depends on follow-up assessments and care being available in the community seven days a week. This requires additional investment in community care capacity including the voluntary care sector.