Understanding the occupational and organizational boundaries to safe hospital discharge

Justin Waring*, Fiona Marshall, Simon Bishop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Safe hospital discharge relies upon communication and coordination across multiple occupational and organizational boundaries. Our aim was to understand how these boundaries can exacerbate health system complexity and represent latent sociocultural threats to safe discharge. 

Methods: An ethnographic study was conducted in two local health and social care systems (health economies) in England, focusing on two clinical areas: stroke and hip fracture patients. Data collection involved 345 hours of observations and 220 semi-structured interviews with health and social care professionals, patients and their lay carers. 

Results: Hospital discharge involves a dynamic network of interactions between heterogeneous health and social care actors, each characterized by divergent ways of organizing discharge activities; cultures of collaboration and interaction and understanding of what discharge involves and how it contributes to patient recovery. These interrelated dimensions elaborate the occupational and organisational boundaries that can influence communication and coordination in hospital discharge. 

Conclusions: Hospital discharge relies upon the coordination of multiple actors working across occupational and organizational boundaries. Attention to the sociocultural boundaries that influence communication and coordination can help inform interventions that might support enhanced discharge safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-44
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Health Services Research & Policy
Issue number1 Suppl
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • boundaries
  • communication
  • coordination
  • hospital discharge
  • patient safety


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