A five-minute guide to hospital stays

A five-minute guide to hospital stays

Meet our expert

Sheelagh Donovan is the health technical advice support officer for Age UK. A nutritionist by training, she writes about healthy living and NHS services for the charity’s website and publications

Before your stay

Try to find out as much information about your time in hospital before you actually get there. When your consultant first refers you for an operation, ask questions about your recovery, how long it might take and what you can do to speed it up.
At your pre-operative assessment (where your health will be assessed to reduce any risks to you during surgery), ask for any information that will make your stay easier such as visiting hours, parking charges, a contact phone number for the ward and what you might need to pack, says Sheelagh Donovan. It’s also a good time to discuss any worries you might have.
Agree with your family in advance who will call the ward to check on your progress, and find out your direct number if  you have a bedside phone. Find out the hospital’s policy on dirty clothing, and whether a friend or relative will need to take yours home to be washed.

During your stay

Let the ward know if you have particular dietary requirements. ‘Hospitals usually cater very well for specific diets or allergies 'good food is, after all, key for recovery,’ says Sheelagh. ‘If there is something specific you want that isn’t available, ask a relative to bring it in for you.’
The staff on the ward should have a rough idea when you’ll be well enough to leave, so make sure you ask. Find out if you’ll need help at home initially so you can arrange for a friend or relative to help. If you don’t have anyone available to care for you when you get home, speak to the staff on the ward as they may be able to arrange care through social services.
Age UK’s free 'Going into hospital’ guide offers helpful advice. Call Age UK Advice on 0800 169 6565 or visit www.ageuk.org.uk


  • Your current medications
  • Nightwear, including dressing gown and slippers (remember wards are often warm so bear this in mind when choosing what clothes to bring)
  • Clothes for going home
  • Glasses if you wear them
  • A mobile phone (if allowed on your ward - you can check beforehand
  • Mini toiletries and wet wipes
  • Notebook and pen
  • A book or magazine


  • Large amounts of money
  • Valuable items, such as jewellery or credit cards
  • Unnecessary clothing (you will only have one small cupboard beside your bed to store things in)
  • Alcohol or cigarettes
  • Electrical appliances. If you do bring an electrical appliance, such as a hairdryer, inform the nurse in charge of your care. Hospitals may refuse to let you use electrical equipment if they think it may be unsafe as all electrical items have to be properly tested and verified by a qualified electrician.