Objective The involvement of orthopaedic trauma patients in the decision-making regarding discharge destination from the acute hospital and their perceptions of the care following discharge are poorly understood. The aim of the present study was to investigate orthopaedic trauma patient experiences of discharge from the acute hospital and transition back into the community. Methods The present qualitative study performed in-depth interviews, between October 2012 and November 2013, with patients aged 18–64 years with lower limb trauma. Thematic analysis was used to derive important themes. Results Ninety-four patients were interviewed, including 35 discharged to in-patient rehabilitation. Key themes that emerged include variable involvement in decision-making regarding discharge, lack of information and follow-up care on discharge and varying opinions regarding in-patient rehabilitation. Readiness for discharge from in-patient rehabilitation also differed widely among patients, with patients often reporting being ready for discharge before the planned discharge date and feeling frustration at the need to stay in in-patient care. There was also a difference in patients’ perception of the factors leading to recovery, with patients discharged to rehabilitation more commonly reporting external factors, such as rehabilitation providers and physiotherapy. Conclusion The insights provided by the participants in the present study will help us improve our discharge practice, especially the need to address the concerns of inadequate information provision regarding discharge and the role of in-patient rehabilitation. What is known about the topic? There is no current literature describing trauma patient involvement in decision-making regarding discharge from the acute hospital and the perception of how this decision (and destination choice; e.g. home or in-patient rehabilitation) affects their outcome. What does this paper add? The present large qualitative study provides information on patients’ opinion of discharge from the acute hospital following trauma and how this could be improved from their perception. Patients are especially concerned with the lack of information provided to them on discharge, their lack of involvement and understanding of the choices made with regard to their discharge and describe concerns regarding their follow-up care. There is also a feeling from the patients that they are ready to leave rehabilitation before their actual planned discharge date, a concept that needs further investigation. What are the implications for practitioners? The patient insights gained by the present study will lead to a change in discharge practice, including increased involvement of the patient in the decision-making in terms of discharge from both the acute and rehabilitation hospitals and a raised awareness of the need to provide written information and follow-up telephone calls to patients following discharge. Further research into many aspects of patient discharge from the acute hospital should be considered, including the use of rehabilitation prediction tools to ensure patient involvement in decision-making and a discharge and/or follow-up coordinator to ensure patients are aware of how to access information after discharge.