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Service Description

Hospital appointments, admission and discharge
Hospital appointments, admission and discharge

About NHS hospital services

NHS hospital services are run and managed by NHS Health Boards, which make sure that hospitals provide high-quality healthcare, and that money is spent efficiently. They also decide on strategies for hospital developments.

Apart from emergency care, hospital treatment is arranged through your GP, dentist and optician. Treatment at NHS hospitals is free. However, if you are not a resident of the UK please read the Health in Wales information titled Overseas Visitors

Waiting times

NHS Wales is committed to ensuring that patients are seen as quickly as possible according to their clinical need.

The main focus is on Referral to Treatment times. This is the total time from referral by a GP or other medical practitioner for hospital treatment in the NHS in Wales and includes time spent waiting for outpatient appointments, diagnostic tests, therapy services and inpatient or day-case admissions.

The key objectives are to ensure that:

  • All patients referred by primary care will receive their treatment within 26 weeks or less for the majority of patients
  • All patients whose care is too complex to be undertaken within 26 weeks or those who choose to wait longer receive their definitive treatment within maximum of 36 weeks
  • Patients who are not on a referral to treatment pathway but require specified diagnostic and therapy services are seen in accordance with the operational standards.

Read more about Waiting times.

Complaining about hospital services

If you’re not happy with the care you receive in hospital, you can make a complaint.

Speak to a member of staff in the hospital ward or department. The best people to speak to about your concerns are the ward manager, senior nurse on duty or the hospital receptionist. They may be able to resolve your problem or put you in touch with someone who can. Raising the issue early with someone in the department is usually the easiest and quickest way to resolve a problem.

You can also talk to the Community Health Council for information and support.  They can give you advice on how to get your complaint resolved. This may include making a complaint to the hospital management through the NHS Putting Things Right concerns procedure.  

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Going into hospital

The information in this section is a general guide to going into hospital. Details will vary depending on which hospital you are being admitted to and which test or treatment you are receiving. Check on the website of your hospital for more information. Find contact details for your hospital using the Hospital search.  


Your admission to hospital will depend on the type of procedure or care you will be receiving. You can attend as an outpatient, or be admitted as a day patient or an inpatient.

As an outpatient you will go to hospital for an appointment to see a specialist but you will not stay overnight. 

As a day patient or day case you will be given a hospital bed for tests or surgery, but will not stay overnight. This can include treatments such as minor surgery, dialysis or chemotherapy.
As an inpatient, you will stay in hospital for one night or more for tests, medical treatment or surgery. You’ll be involved in all decisions regarding your treatment throughout your stay in hospital. If you wish, staff will keep members of your family or friends informed about your progress.

All hospital staff will treat you equally regardless of your gender, sexuality, age or disability and will always respect your privacy and religious or cultural background while providing care.  

Admission letter

If  you are due to go to hospital for elective care (pre-arranged), you will usually receive an admission letter beforehand. This will tell you the date of your admission to hospital, which ward you are going to be in, and the consultant who will be taking care of you.

Your admission letter will contain any special instructions you need to follow before your hospital procedure. For example, you may be asked not to eat or drink before attending hospital.

Your admission letter will also contain a contact number for your hospital or ward. It may be necessary to contact the hospital on the morning of your admission date to ensure that a bed is available for you.

Sometimes, because of emergencies, hospital beds are not available when scheduled. If a bed is not available, your admission date will be rearranged. If a bed is available, you will normally be asked to arrive at the hospital in the mid or late afternoon.  

Pre-admission assessment

At some hospitals you will be asked to attend a pre-admissions assessment (PAA). This may be an appointment with a nurse or doctor or a telephone assessment. You will be asked questions about your health, your medical history and your home circumstances.

During the PAA you will be given advice about your admission, including where to report to. You may be asked not to eat or drink (nil by mouth) before coming into hospital for your tests or operation. You will also be given advice about when to take your normal medication if you have any. You will be screened for your risk of MRSA and assessed for your risk of hospital-acquired clots. Find more about the risk of blood clots.

During the PAA, the nurse or doctor will decide whether you are suitable for a day procedure or whether you will need to stay in hospital to have your operation. 

Cancelling and rearranging

If you are unable to attend your hospital appointment or don’t feel well enough to have your treatment, operation or test, let the hospital know as soon as possible. Your admission will be rearranged for another day.

If you have decided not to go ahead with the operation or procedure, you will be referred back to your specialist. 

Getting to hospital

You will normally be expected to make your own way to hospital. If you have a medical need for it, a non-emergency ambulance or taxi will collect you from your home. Your GP or the person who refers you will have discussed with you whether you have a medical need for transport.

It is a good idea to organise for a friend or relative to take you to hospital and pick you up again when you are discharged. Parking at a hospital can be expensive, and you may not be able to park overnight. For information about parking, contact your hospital directly. To find contact details of your hospital, use the Hospital search facility.

If you do not have a medical need for ambulance transport, you cannot meet the cost of travel to hospital and cannot organise a friend or relative to take you to hospital, you may be able to claim a refund on the cost of travelling to hospital under the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS).  

Screening before you go into hospital

Before you go into hospital you may be screened to see whether you have MRSA bacteria on your skin. Read more information about MRSA.

Guide to staying in hospital

The information in this section is a general guide to staying in hospital. Details will vary depending on which hospital you are admitted to and which procedure you are having. Check on the website of your hospital for more information. To find contact details for your hospital, use the Local services search

When you arrive

When you arrive at your hospital you will be welcomed by a member of staff, who will explain the processes to you and what to expect. You will be given an identity bracelet to wear at all times while you are in the hospital.  


A nurse will usually co-ordinate your admission and fill in the paperwork for you. You will need to provide the name, address and a contact number of the person you would like to be contacted in an emergency. This could be your wife, husband, partner or a friend or other relative.

For some procedures, including operations, you will be asked to sign a consent form. A copy of this form will be given to you.

It is up to you whether you give consent for a treatment. You can change your mind after the form has been signed, but not after you have received sedation for a procedure. For more information, visit the Consent to treatment section.  

Hand hygiene

Keeping your hands clean helps to prevent the spread of diseases and infections in hospitals. If you are staying in a hospital, make sure you clean your hands after going to the toilet, before and after eating, and at regular intervals.

It is important that you clean your hands regularly using hand rubs or soap and water. However, most germs that cause diarrhoea are not destroyed by alcohol-based hand rubs, in which case you should wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, commode or bedpan if you have diarrhoea.

If you are concerned about the hand hygiene of doctors, nurses or anyone else you come into contact with in hospital, you are encouraged to ask them whether they have cleaned their hands.  


Cleanliness in hospitals is important in minimising the spread of infection. You can help prevent the spread of infections by keeping the space around you tidy and uncluttered so that cleaning staff can access all the surfaces easily. Your relatives and visitors can also help you with this.

If you are concerned about cleanliness in the hospital or if you spot any dirt or dust, let the staff know about it.  

Infection prevention and control

You can also help prevent the spread of infection by following these guidelines:

  • Do not touch any wound or device that enters your body, such as a drip or catheter.
  • Shower as frequently as you can, and change into clean clothes regularly. 
  • Do not share personal items or equipment with other patients.
  • Tell one of the nurses as soon as possible if you have diarrhoea or vomiting. It is important to let staff know so they can keep you and other patients safe.

Translation services

If you have difficulty speaking or understanding English, your hospital may be able to provide an interpreter. Speak to the staff at your hospital for more details.

Signers for British Sign Language can also often be arranged.   


Most hospitals have specific times during which friends and relatives can visit. However, your doctor may restrict people from seeing you if they decide that your health would suffer if you were allowed visitors. Most hospitals also limit the number of visitors a patient can receive at any one time, so it might be necessary to stagger your visitors so that they come at different times.

Visitors should also clean their hands as they arrive to avoid bringing in infections. If a friend or relative has an infection such as a cough, cold, flu, diarrhoea or vomiting, it is best that they do not visit you. Ask one of the nurses if you’re not sure.

It is also best if visitors do not sit on your bed. To minimise the risk of infection, visitors should not use the patient toilets on the ward. Staff can direct family and friends to the visitors’ toilets.


Hospitals do not permit smoking at all within their buildings. If smoking is permitted outside the hospital buildings, make sure you only smoke in designated areas.  

Staff uniforms

In most hospitals, different members of staff wear different coloured uniforms to make them more easily recognisable to patients and visitors. However, colour schemes vary from hospital to hospital, so ask for a guide to the uniforms in your hospital.

All members of hospital staff will wear an identity badge with their name and role. 

Hospital staff must be scrupulous about their own hand hygiene. This means they have to be able to clean their hand and wrists without their uniforms getting in the way. All hospitals must have rules about uniform that support good hand hygiene. Staff must take care that no item of clothing inadvertently comes into contact with the person being cared for. 

Religion or belief

Hospitals have a chaplaincy or religious, spiritual and pastoral care department, with representatives from different faiths. Their job is to listen to you and talk to you about your beliefs and concerns, not to put you under pressure to follow a particular faith.

If you wish to see a chaplain or other faith representative, ask a member of ward staff to contact them on your behalf. Some hospitals have a chaplain on call 24 hours a day.

If you need somewhere to go to worship or a quiet place to be alone, most hospitals have a chapel or other designated areas. These are not only for those who have religious faith, but for anyone who needs some time to themselves.

Food and mealtimes

Hospitals will cater for your personal dietary needs. Let staff know if you need a particular type of food. For example, kosher, halal, vegetarian or vegan. You may be asked to complete a menu sheet each day.

Let the staff know if you have any concerns about your diet or if you feel you have lost weight or lost your appetite. If you would like help, advice or support relating to your diet, you may be referred to a dietitian.

Hospitals often operate a protected mealtimes system. This means that only nursing and catering staff are allowed on the wards during mealtimes. Visitors may be asked to leave or may be prevented from entering a ward, and all other ward activities cease. This ensures that staff are available to serve food and assist patients if necessary, and patients can enjoy their food in a more relaxed and calm atmosphere.

There may be alternative arrangements for food on your ward. Some wards have facilities that provide snacks or lighter meals. You may also be allowed to bring in some foodstuffs and store them in the ward fridge.

However, wards often have strict rules about food. Normally, dry foods, such as biscuits, crisps and bottled or canned drinks, are allowed. Other foods, such as meat or fish, cream-based products, eggs or take-away items may be restricted or banned altogether. Check with your ward staff about the local policy. 

Staying mobile

Staying mobile in hospital can help you to recover more quickly. Being immobile can lead to additional health problems, such as infections and pressure sores. It can also increase your risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE), which is when a blood clot forms in a vein. VTE is a life-threatening condition. 

To avoid VTE, you will be encouraged to move about the ward regularly. You will be given as much assistance as you need to move about. If you are at an increased risk of VTE, you will be given compression stockings to improve your circulation.

Hospital stays and benefits

Going into hospital may affect your benefits. For more information, see Gov UK: Changes that affect your tax credits

Death in hospital

If someone you know dies while in hospital, the staff will advise you about what to do. If you are the next of kin of the person who dies, you will need to identify their body and you may need to give permission for a post-mortem to be carried out. For more information about what to do after someone dies, visit the GOV.UK website.

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Your hospital outpatient appointment

If you have a hospital appointment but don’t need to stay overnight (or less than 24 hrs), it means you’re being treated as an outpatient.

You may stay overnight in the hospital, but not be admitted as an inpatient for:

  • blood transfusions
  • hospital billed laboratory tests
  • mental health care
  • medical supplies such as splints and casts
  • emergency room or outpatient clinic services, including same day surgery
  • certain drug treatments
  • x-rays and other radiation services

Before your appointment

When you are referred to hospital for tests or treatment, you will receive a confirmation letter from the hospital. The letter will include all the necessary information to prepare you for your appointment. This could include:

  • date and time of the appointment
  • contact details of the hospital department in charge of your care
  • information about where you have to go on the day, often a map of the hospital is included
  • the name of the consultant you’ll see on the day
  • information about any tests you may need to have before your appointment
  • information about any samples (urine, stool or medicines) you may have to bring with you on the day
  • information about whether you can, or cannot, eat or drink before your hospital appointment and how long for

If you have any questions regarding your appointment, please contact the hospital. You can find the telephone number on your letter. Also, call the hospital if you have any special needs or require a translator.

If you are unable to attend the allocated appointment, please inform the hospital in advance and they will try to arrange for a new appointment. Many appointments are wasted each year because patients do not turn up on the day. If you don’t come for your appointment then you will lose your referral and you’ll have to ask your GP for a new one. This also means the waiting time clock will start again. Read the guide to waiting times for more information.

If you happen to fall ill in the weeks before your appointment, let the hospital know, especially in cases of diarrhoea and vomiting. You may be asked not to come and be offered a new appointment. This is to help prevent and control the spread of infections in the hospital. 

Besides the items listed on your appointment letter, you may also want to bring the following with you:

  • a small amount of money in case you need to buy a drink or snack
  • information about any changes in your personal details, such as a new address or a new GP
  • proof of entitlement to free travel or help with travel, if appropriate

On the day

When you arrive at the hospital for your appointment, go to the department named in your letter and register with the reception. Your appointment letter will tell you where you have to go, but do not hesitate to ask a member of staff for directions.

Don’t forget to bring your appointment letter as the receptionist has to check that all your details are correct. If there are any changes to your personal details please let them know.

Your registration letter may state that you should arrive 10-15 minutes earlier than the appointed time. This will allow for any pre-assessments. For example, a healthcare assistant, nurse, or registrar may need to measure your weight, height and blood pressure before you see the consultant.

Although you have an allocated time slot for your appointment, you may have to wait as other appointments can overrun or the doctor may be called away to an emergency. Hospital staff will always try to keep you informed about any delays. You should therefore allow plenty of time for your visit, especially if this is your first appointment.

Your consultation

Your appointment may be in a teaching hospital. This means that medical students or training nurses can be present during your consultation. If you do not wish them to be, inform the doctor or nurse in charge; it will not affect your care in any way.

Although your GP should have provided all your records to the hospital, this may not always be the case, especially if it was an emergency referral. Be prepared to repeat your patient history and to describe your current problems.

Inform the consultant if you are pregnant, have any allergies, or if you are taking any medicines. Bring a sample of your current medicines (in their original container if possible) to the appointment, including medicines you have brought yourself and any alternative medicines.

It can help to make a list at home about everything you want to discuss on the day, including a list of all your symptoms, medicines, any questions or concerns you already have, and anything your GP has recommended you ask the consultant. This will help you to get the most from your appointment.

You should make notes during the appointment. Often, there is a lot of information to digest and this allows you to look up certain elements at home or to refer back to them at your follow up appointment.

However, the following things should have been explained to you during your consultation:

  • what might be wrong
  • whether you need any tests
  • what treatment(s) is best for you
  • what happens next and who to contact

Read our guidance for questions you could ask as a patient.

After your appointment

At the end of your consultation, the doctor will tell you if you need further tests or a follow up appointment. If you have already had tests done, ask your consultant when and how you will get your results back. If you don’t receive the results as explained by the consultant, call the hospital. Do not wait until your next appointment.

If you need a follow up appointment then this will be arranged by the hospital. Generally, you will be given a note at the end of the consultation, hand this to the reception desk. The receptionist will then arrange a suitable date and time for your next appointment before you leave the hospital.

The hospital will also send you a confirmation letter (and often a reminder letter) for your next appointment. If there are any changes to your appointment then you'll be informed beforehand and if necessary provided with a new appointment.

A couple of weeks after your hospital appointment, you should receive a letter with a summary of your consultation. In this letter the consultant will once more describe what was discussed on the day and explain what the next steps are. 

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Children and teens

Children can find going to hospital a daunting experience. This is partly to do with their treatment but also because the hospital is a new and strange environment, full of new sights, smells, noises and people. If possible, talk to your child before leaving for hospital and explain what they should expect.


Stay with your child as much as you can

Hospital staff have found that children often adapt better to a hospital if their parents stay with them for as long as possible. Reassure your child that you will be staying by their side, and let them know that the hospital is a safe place to be. However, if you have to leave the hospital at any time, inform your child how long you will be gone for, and make sure that you are back on time.

If you are able to stay with your child overnight, the hospital may arrange for an extra bed in your child's room or ward. 

Keep to a routine

Keeping a routine can help your child feel more at home so it may help if, for example, you stick to your child’s usual bedtime routine or bring their favourite toy or comforter. 

Take time for yourself

While it is important to reassure children about their stay in hospital, it is just as important to look after yourself. You will be better able to care for your child and give support if you are coping well yourself.

Remember that it is fine to take breaks. Go for a walk, or get a cup of tea or coffee. Talk things through with your partner, friends, or family; they will be able to give support and talking can be a great stress reliever. 

Consent to treatment

Before a doctor, nurse or therapist can examine or treat your child, they must have consent or agreement. As a parent, you will make your decisions based on what you feel is in your child’s best interests. It is, however, advisable to involve children as much as possible in these decisions. This will give them a sense of control and they are more likely to respond positively to their treatment.

As a rule, you are entitled to agree to treatment on behalf of a child up to the age of 18 for whom you have parental responsibility. Once children reach 16, they can give consent independently, just like adults. Children under 16 may still be able to give consent for themselves, if they are mature enough to understand fully what is involved.

Read more about consent for children and teens.   

What to ask

To make an informed decision you and your child should ask as much about the treatment as possible.

Keep a notebook to write down any questions, in case you cannot speak to your doctor straight away.

If the person you're asking can't answer your questions, ask them to find out or arrange for someone else to talk to you about your concerns.

Use these questions as a guide.

  • What will the treatment involve?
  • How will the treatment improve my child’s health?
  • What are the benefits of this rather than other treatments (if there are any)?
  • How good are the chances of success?
  • Are there any alternatives?
  • What are the risks, if any, and how serious could they be?
  • What happens if my child doesn’t have treatment?   
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Disabled people

Information for disabled people going into hospital

If you are disabled and you need hospital treatment, it is important that you inform the hospital about the nature of your disability and the extra support you need.

If your local doctor refers you for treatment, they will inform the hospital staff of your needs. You can also discuss your requirements with members of hospital staff when they complete your admission form on your arrival in hospital.

The admission form gives hospital staff an idea of how much help you may need during your stay in hospital. You might want to discuss: 

  • any routines you have
  • specialist equipment that the hospital may not be able to provide
  • having a carer present with you at certain times
  • access to facilities, such as bathrooms and toilets
  • using a fixed loop or subtitles for television or radio  


Before you go into hospital, it is important to notify the relevant benefit authorities. For more information about how a hospital stay will affect your benefits, see Carers UK information on Hospital stays and your benefits.  

Consent to treatment

For some procedures, including operations, you will be asked to sign a consent form. For more information, see Consent to treatment.

Most people with disabilities wil be asked to give their consent to any treatment in hospitals. However, where people lack capacity to give consent, they will be treated under the Mental Capacity Act.

Where a person clearly lacks the capacity to make decisions at the time they are admitted to hospital, health professionals will make what is called a 'best interests decision' on whether specific treatment is in a person's best interests. Doctors and nurses will weigh up the benefits and risks, including whether the person is likely to regain capacity and regain the ability to give or withhold consent. Read more about how to assess capacity to consent.

A person may wish to plan ahead for a time when they cannot give consent. They can pre-arrange a legally binding advance decision to refuse certain treatments (previously known as an advance directive). Healthcare professionals must follow the advance decision, providing it is valid and applicable. Read more about advance decisions.

In addition, they can make broader statements about how they wish to be treated (for example they may wish to have terminal care in their own homes where possible), which are not legally binding, but which health professionals will take into consideration.

Everyone is encouraged to ask questions about any proposed treatment and to be fully informed about options before or during their stay in hospital. 

Leaving hospital

If you are disabled, staff will arrange transport for you, if necessary, to return home when you leave the hospital.

If you have recently become disabled, or have given birth to a disabled child, the hospital will tell local social services so that you get the help you need. To find out about the financial support you may be entitled to, see Carers UK: Help with money

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Visiting someone in hospital

The information in this section is a general guide to visiting someone in hospital. Details will vary depending on which hospital you are visiting. Check on the website of the hospital you want to visit for more information. To find contact details for a hospital, use Search for hospitals

Visiting hours

Most hospitals have times at which you can visit your friend or relative. Check with the relevant hospital for information about when you can visit. Bear in mind that different wards often have different visiting times.

If you are unable to attend during visiting hours, talk to the member of staff in charge of the ward to arrange an alternative time to visit.

Hospitals encourage relatives and friends to visit patients. However, patients can get tired very quickly. For this reason, the number of visitors each patient is allowed is usually restricted and it might be necessary to stagger the visitors so they come at different times.

Children can be restricted from visiting a patient in the same way that adults are. In some wards, you need to ask permission for children to visit you, and some wards insist that children under 12 are accompanied by an adult.  

Hand hygiene

When visiting someone in hospital, always clean your hands using soap and water or alcohol hand rubs. Do this when you enter or leave a patient’s room or other areas of the hospital.  

If you are concerned about the hand hygiene of doctors, nurses or anyone else who comes into contact with the patient you are visiting, you are encouraged to ask them whether they have cleaned their hands. 


If you have a cough, cold, diarrhoea, vomiting or any other infectious condition, contact the ward for advice before visiting.  

Presents for patients

Patients like to receive gifts while in hospital. Most hospitals encourage visitors to bring gifts such as fruit, sweets, books and magazines, but it is important not to clutter the patient’s bed area. Check with the ward staff before bringing someone a gift of flowers.  


Many hospitals do not permit smoking in any part of their buildings or grounds. If smoking is allowed at the hospital you are visiting, only smoke in the designated outdoor areas. 


Parking at hospitals is limited and can be expensive. Where possible, use public transport when visiting someone in hospital.  

Violence and aggression towards staff

Violence and aggression towards staff, patients or members of the public is not tolerated in any hospital. Assault is a crime, and hospitals will seek the maximum legal penalties for anyone behaving in this way.  

What not to do when visiting someone in hospital

  • It's best not to sit on the patient’s bed as this can spread germs. Use the chairs provided.
  • Don’t put your feet on the patient’s bed.
  • Don’t touch the patient’s wounds or any medical equipment they are attached to, such as drips or catheters. This can cause infections.
  • Don’t use the patients’ toilets. Ask the ward staff where the nearest public toilets are.
  • Don’t share property, such as toiletries, tissues or items of hospital equipment with the patients.
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Leaving hospital

Being discharged from hospital

Each hospital will have its own policy and arrangements for discharging patients. Normally, when you arrive in hospital, the professionals in charge of your care will develop a plan for your treatment, including your discharge or transfer. This is usually done within 24 hours of your arrival.

You will be able to discuss arrangements for your discharge with staff. This will help to ensure that you have everything you need for a full recovery when you return home.

Your discharge or transfer date will be affected by:

  • how quickly your health improves while you are in hospital
  • what support you will need after you return home

If you are unhappy about your suggested discharge or transfer date, raise your concerns with the hospital staff. During your stay in hospital you have the right to discharge yourself from hospital at any time.

When you leave hospital you will be given a letter for your GP, providing information about your treatment and future care needs. Give this letter to your GP as soon as possible.  

Minimal discharge

Most people who are discharged from hospital need only a small amount of care after they leave. This is called 'minimal discharge'

Complex discharge

If you need more specialised care after you leave hospital, your discharge or transfer procedure is referred to as a 'complex discharge'. For example, you may:

  • have ongoing health and social care needs
  • need community care services
  • need intermediate care
  • be discharged to a residential home or care home

As well as hospital staff, your discharge or transfer may involve other healthcare professionals, such as your GP or a community nurse. Organisations outside the NHS may also be involved. For example, Social services /local authorities or independent and voluntary organisations.


If you are given any medication to take home, you will usually be given enough for the following seven days. You will also be given a letter to give to your GP, which includes information about your medication.

If you need to keep taking your medication, make sure you arrange to get a repeat prescription from your GP before your hospital supply runs out. Some surgeries require up to 48 hours’ working-day notice for repeat prescriptions.  

Organising transport

If you are being discharged, arrange for a relative or friend to collect you. Let the staff know if they need to make other transport arrangements for you. 

Returning home

If you are returning home, make sure you have everything you need for your recovery. It may be helpful to get a friend or relative to stay with you or visit you regularly.

If this can’t be arranged, make sure that you have plenty of food, drinks and other essential items in your home, including basic painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Buy food that is easy to prepare, such as frozen ready meals, cans of soup or beans, and staples, such as rice and pasta.  

Sick notes

You may need a sick note or information for insurance companies or your employer. Speak to the nurse in charge of your ward if you need a form to be completed.  


Remember to do the following before you leave hospital:

  • Provide a forwarding address for any post.
  • Make sure you have collected your hospital discharge letter for your GP. Or have it sent directly to your GP in the post, by fax or by email.
  • Make sure you have the medication you need.
  • Make a follow-up appointment if you need one.
  • Ask the nurse in charge of your ward for any medical certificates you may need.
  • Collect any cash and valuables you may have handed in for safekeeping.
  • Check that you have all your belongings.
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What to bring with you to hospital

Bring your appointment card or admission letter with you when you go into hospital. If you are staying in hospital you may also need the following:

  • two nightdresses or pairs of pyjamas (depending on the length of your stay)
  • day clothes (you may not need to wear your night clothes for your entire stay in hospital. Hospital wards are often kept warm, so bear this in mind when choosing clothes.)
  • clean underwear
  • a dressing gown and slippers
  • a small hand towel
  • toiletries, including soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner
  • sanitary towels or tampons
  • a razor and shaving materials
  • a comb or hairbrush
  • things to occupy you, such as books, magazines or puzzle books
  • a small amount of money to buy things such as newspapers, phone calls and anything you may want from the hospital shop or ward trolley
  • any medicines you normally take, including nicotine replacement treatment, eye drops, inhalers and creams
  • a notebook and pen to write down any questions you have when the doctor is not available
  • if you wish, you can bring healthy snacks to eat between meals
  • your address book and important phone numbers, including your GP’s name, address and telephone number

Limit clutter and gifts. Keeping your bed area free from clutter makes cleaning easier. Where possible, it is advisable to mark all items of personal property with your name.

You will have your own small locker for your personal belongings. Do not leave any valuables or money by your bed unattended.

Some hospitals have a safe in which you can leave valuable items if you are concerned about security. If you give anything to the hospital for safekeeping, make sure you get a receipt.

What not to bring with you to hospital

Do not bring the following to hospital with you:

  • large amounts of money
  • valuable items, such as jewellery or credit cards
  • unnecessary clothing
  • alcohol or cigarettes
  • electrical appliances. If you do bring an electrical appliance, such as a hairdryer, inform the nurse in charge. Hospitals may refuse to let you use electrical equipment if they think it may be unsafe

Bringing medication to hospital

When you go to hospital as an inpatient, take all your medicines and tablets with you. It is helpful if, where possible, you take medicines in the boxes they originally came in.

Make sure the hospital knows about all the medicines and tablets you are taking, including any supplements or herbal tablets. Some of the medicines you take may affect your treatment and your doctor may ask you to stop taking them.

You may find it helpful to make a list of the medicines you take before you are admitted, and bring it with you.

If you have a special card giving details of your current treatment, such as a steroid or warfarin card, bring this with you too.

Other preparations to make before you go into hospital

Arrange help

Arrange for a friend or relative to stay with you or visit you regularly when you return from hospital.

Prepare your home

Depending on the treatment you receive, your mobility might be restricted when you are returning home from hospital. Put your TV remote control, books and magazines, radio, telephone, tissues, address book and a glass on a table next to where you will spend most of your time when you come out of hospital.

Make sure that you have plenty of easy-to-prepare food, drinks and other essential items in your home, including basic painkillers.

Clean up

Before going into hospital, have a long bath or shower, cut your nails (taking off any nail polish) and wash your hair. Put on freshly washed clothes. This helps to prevent unwanted bacteria coming into hospital with you and complicating your care.

Taking time off work

If you are an employee and you need to go into hospital for a long stay, or need to take time off to recover after your operation, talk to your employer about your circumstances.

You may be entitled to statutory sick pay, or your employer may have a company sick pay scheme. For more information, see Gov UK: Statutory sick pay.

After your operation or hospital stay you may be able to work but feel more tired than normal. Before you have your operation or treatment, talk to your employer about the possibility of:

  • working from home
  • sharing your workload with colleagues
  • travelling to work at quieter times
  • using a parking space closer to your place of work
  • having regular rest breaks in a quiet place
  • doing lighter work if your job involves manual labour

Preparing other people for hospital

If your child is ill and needs to go into hospital, you may have to make difficult decisions, such as whether to stay with your child in hospital. For more information, see Children in hospital, or Birth to five: if your child has to go to hospital.

If you are a carer and the person you are caring for has to go to hospital, this may affect the benefits you both receive. For more information, see Gov UK: Carer’s Allowance.

General tips about hospital etiquette

Things to remember while you are in hospital:

  • Tell staff if you are going out of the ward or unit.
  • Listen carefully to information about your treatment and medication.
  • Ask staff to explain something to you again if you do not understand.
  • Tell the doctor about any treatments you are already receiving or any allergies you have.
  • Do not take any medication you have brought with you from home.
  • Treat staff, fellow patients and visitors politely and with respect. Verbal abuse, harassment and physical violence are unacceptable and may lead to prosecution.
  • And follow the rules for your ward.

Hospital safety and security


Accidents, particularly falls, occur frequently in hospitals, but many can be prevented. If you see something that could cause an accident or if you witness an incident, alert a member of staff immediately.

To help avoid accidents in hospital:

  • Ask for help if you want to get in or out of bed and feel dizzy or unwell.
  • Ensure you know where the call bell is and that you can reach it easily.
  • Be aware of obstacles on the ward, wet floors and other people around you.
  • If you have glasses, wear them. If you have left them at home, ask someone to bring them in for you.
  • Wear close-fitting non-slip slippers.
  • If you use a walking aid, such as a stick or frame, keep it near to you. Make sure it is labelled with your name and contact details.
  • If your bed is too high or too low, ask the nursing staff to adjust it for you.

Fire safety

Each hospital has its own fire safety procedure. Make sure you are familiar with what to do in the case of a fire.

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The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website
Last Updated: 26/06/2018 10:25:20