A guide to developing criteria-led discharge

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Use this guide to encourage development of the use of discharge criteria to support patient discharge from hospital.

Criteria-led discharge can be used in conjunction with existing care pathways to speed up patient discharge, improving patient and staff satisfaction, enhancing patient safety and reducing the unnecessary length of stay in hospital.   

The lead clinician for a patient’s care identifies the clinical criteria for their discharge. These criteria are discussed with the patient and the multi-disciplinary team and are recorded. A competent member of the multi-disciplinary team then discharges the patient when the clinical criteria for discharge have been met.

A brief guide to developing criteria-led discharge PDF, 213.7 KB

This brief guide includes the rationale for developing criteria-led discharge, an outline of the two main approaches, underpinning principles and a review of related studies.

Is criteria-led discharge safe?

Criteria-led discharge should be considered as one of the improvement initiatives that contribute to releasing capacity through more streamlined patient discharge. A reasonable question to ask before actively pursuing criteria-led discharge, is ‘is it safe?’

In order to answer this question, a systematic review was undertaken and published in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality. The research included in the systematic review identifies the benefits of criteria-led discharge for patients, staff and for patient flow. It also discusses the facilitators for criteria-led discharge.

What are the benefits of criteria-led discharge?

Studies identified a reduction in patients’ length of stay in surgical, medical and paediatric settings as well as an increase in discharges before 9am. There was no increase in complication rates, re-admissions or primary care contact after discharge. Patient satisfaction did not reduce and staff satisfaction increased with criteria-led discharge.

What are facilitators of criteria led discharge?

The research identified that criteria led discharge must be underpinned by robust patient discharge protocols, staff training and appropriate patient selection.

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