Maternity services and the discharge process: A review of practice in Queensland

Bec Jenkinson, Kate Young, Sue Kruske

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Efforts to increase postnatal support available to women and families are hampered by inadequate referral mechanisms. However, the discharge process in maternity services has received little research attention. Aim: To review current discharge practices in Queensland, in order to identify mechanisms to minimise fragmentation in the care of women and families as they transition from hospital-based postnatal care to community-based health and other services. Methods: A survey of discharge practices in Queensland hospitals that offer birthing services (N= 55) and content analysis of discharge summary forms used by those hospitals. Findings: Fifty-two Queensland birthing hospitals participated in the study. Discharge summaries were most commonly sent to General Practitioners (83%), less commonly to Child and Family Health Nurses (CFHNs; 52%) and rarely to other care providers. Discharge summaries were usually disseminated within one week of discharge (87%), but did not capture any information about care provided by domiciliary services. Almost one-fifth (19%) of hospitals did not seek women's consent for the disclosure of their discharge summary and only 10% of hospitals had processes for women to check accuracy. Significant gaps in the content of discharge summaries were identified, particularly in psychosocial and cultural information, and post-discharge advice. The format of discharge summaries diminished their readability. Conclusion: Discharge summaries (format and content) should be consistent, comprehensive and specific to maternity services. Discharge summaries should be generated and disseminated electronically at the time of discharge from the maternity service. Women should review their discharge summaries and direct and consent to its dissemination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-120
Number of pages7
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Community health services
  • Discharge planning
  • Maternity services
  • Patient discharge
  • Patient discharge summaries
  • Postnatal care

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