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Planning for patient discharge is an essential element of any admission to an acute setting, but may often be left until the patient is almost ready to leave hospital. This article emphasises why discharge planning is important and lists the essential principles that should be addressed to ensure that patients leave at an optimum time, feeling confident and safe to do so. Early assessment, early planning and co-ordination of all the teams involved in the patient’s care are essential. Effective communication between the various teams and with the patient and their family or carer(s) is necessary. Patients should leave hospital with all the information, medications and equipment they require. Appropriate plans should have been developed and communicated to the receiving community or non-acute team. When patient discharge is effective, complications as a result of extended lengths of hospital stay are prevented, hospital beds are used efficiently and readmissions are reduced.