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National Patient Safety Agency

Inpatients-staying in hospital

If you know that you need to spend some time in hospital as an inpatient, here are some simple things to bear in mind before you go in – and while you’re there.



  • Find out if you shouldn’t eat or drink before your hospital appointment and for how long. If you have a condition that may be affected, such as diabetes, tell the hospital a few days before your appointment.

Inpatients staying in hospital
  • Talk to your family or close friends about your healthcare and what you want to happen. They will then be able to speak for you if you are too ill or need an interpreter.

  • If your friends and relatives are not feeling well themselves, ask them not to visit. This will protect you and other patients from contact with infections.
  • If you’re having surgery, check the marks your surgeon makes are in the right place. If you aren’t sure, or think the marks may be wrong, tell someone.
  • Remember to tell the surgeon, anaesthetist and nurse if you have any allergies or if you’ve ever had a bad reaction to an anaesthetic or any other drug.
  • Some hospitals do not provide soap and towels, so find out whether you should bring your own. Keeping yourself clean reduces the chance of infection.
  • Before you leave hospital, ask your doctor or nurse to explain if and how your treatment is going to continue. If you live alone, ask if you should have someone with you at home.
  • Bring any medicines or tablets that you’re taking (in the original containers if possible). Tell your nurse, doctor or pharmacist if you’re taking any vitamins and herbal supplements, and also if you have any allergies. You should also tell them if you are, or think you might be, pregnant.



Staying in hospital

‘Nurses are happy to explain’

Lorna Mess, mental health nurse, Maskell’s


 I’ve spent seven years working on a ward, so sometimes I can forget that a hospital can be a strange and intimidating place for patients. That’s why it's really important that patients ask nurses questions. If you are confused or scared, tell us: we’ll do all we can to help.

Patients always say, "Sorry to bother you…" But they’re no bother. Nurses like to help. If I were a patient I would want to know what’s happening to me. Patients who understand what’s going on are much more likely to be relaxed.


It’s easy to forget what your doctor told you, particularly when you’re ill. So you might want to ask a nurse if they can remind you, or ask your doctor to come and talk to you again. Similarly there’s a lot of medical language and equipment that might need explaining.



It's OK to ask if they've cleaned their hands

Germs can cause infections and hospital staff take hand hygiene seriously. Using a disinfectant handrub kills almost all bacteria in just 30 seconds, so your doctor or nurse won’t mind you asking if they've remembered to use it.



Please Ask about staying in hospital