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National Patient Safety Agency

Outpatients-visiting hospital

If you have a hospital appointment and don’t expect to be staying overnight, it means you’re being treated as an outpatient. Here are some simple things to bear in mind before you go – 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.
  • Think about asking a family member or friend to come with you and ask questions for you. This might be helpful if English isn’t your first language.
  • Take your appointment letter with you – it includes important details like the date of your appointment, your patient number and where to go when you arrive.
  • Learn as much as you can about your condition or treatment. Ask your doctor or nurse any questions that you may have. They will also be able to suggest other sources of information.
  • Before you leave the outpatients clinic, ask your doctor or other member of the healthcare team to explain what will happen next – and whether you’ll have follow-up appointments. If you live alone, ask if you should have someone with you at home.
  • Find out when you can expect the results for any procedure or tests to be ready and how you will be told about them. If you don’t hear anything, call the outpatients clinic. Don’t wait until your next appointment.
  • 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.


Out patient

‘I would go into a daze’

Writing down her questions helped Julie Bernard, 33, get through her leukaemia treatment. She explains:


“I went to my GP four years ago with a sports injury and happened to mention a bruise that wouldn’t go away. She said it was probably nothing, but suggested I go for a few tests. Shortly afterwards, I was diagnosed with leukaemia and one year later I had a bone marrow transplant. After my operation I had to go back to hospital twice a week.


 "I've had brilliant care from the NHS from day one, but, like anyone,  was quite scared and anxious at first when I had to see my consultant.

A couple of times when I had really serious consultations I would go into a daze - and come out wondering what the doctor had said.


It really helped to take my partner along to repeat things back to me. Another good idea is to write any questions you have on a piece of paper beforehand. My consultant used to ask if he could have a look. And then he would go through the questions one by one.


You sometimes think your questions will sound silly, but you'll find someone else has asked something similar before. No doctor has ever made me feel that my questions were stupid.”

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 visiting hospital