Your hospital stay
A hospital stay can be a difficult time for both you and those close to you. You may be in hospital for planned tests or treatment, or admitted in an emergency. If your treatment is planned, a little preparation can make things easier.
- Can I choose which hospital I go to?
- What if I need someone to take me to the hospital?
- What should I pack for my hospital stay?
- How can I organise my home so it’s ready for my return from hospital?
- What happens if I’m admitted to hospital in an emergency?
- Will my benefits stop while I’m in hospital?
- What should I do next?
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some healthcare services may have made changes to how they run. If it is not an emergency it's a good idea to check with a service before visiting.
Can I choose which hospital I go to?
If you’re referred by your doctor to see a hospital consultant, you can usually choose the hospital you’d prefer to go to and which medical team you’d like to treat you. The NHS e-referral system (previously known as Choose and Book) allows you to choose the hospital or clinic of your preference and book your first outpatient appointment.
These questions may help you think about which hospital or medical team to choose:
- Do you know someone who has been treated there? What did they think?
- How quickly can you be seen?
- How easy is it to get there by public transport or car?
- Are the location and visiting times convenient for visitors?
- Is there adequate, affordable car parking?
With planned treatment, sometimes you’ll often be invited for a pre-admissions assessment appointment, either at hospital or over the phone. At this appointment, you’ll be given advice about:
- whether you should eat or drink on the day of the test or treatment
- whether you should take your usual medication on the day
- how long your stay is likely to be
- how to help your own recovery
- whether you’ll need someone to stay with you the first night you’re home.
What if I need someone to take me to the hospital?
If your health condition makes public transport or getting in and out of a car difficult, you may be able to get free NHS transport. Talk to your GP who can arrange this for your first hospital appointment. There may also be a local voluntary driver service you can contact.
If you receive certain benefits or are on a low income, you might be eligible for help with costs of travel to the hospital.
What should I pack for my hospital stay?
As well as nightwear and toiletries, remember to pack:
- your appointment card or admission letter
- a small amount of money for phone calls or items from the hospital shop
- all the medicines you normally take, in their original boxes if possible
- a notebook and pen to write down any questions you have
- your address book, including the name and telephone number of your GP
- items to pass the time, such as books or magazines.
Before you go into hospital, have a bath or shower, wash your hair, cut your nails and put on clean clothes.
How can I organise my home so it’s ready for my return from hospital?
If your hospital stay in planned it’s a good idea to make a few arrangements so that your home is ready for your return from hospital. These are some tips:
- Think about where you will be spending most time when you come out of hospital and put items you use regularly, such as your TV remote control, radio or box of tissues in easy reach.
- Stock up on drinks and foods that are easy to prepare – such as frozen ready meals.
- Check you have other essential items including basic painkillers for when you return.
- Ask a friend or relative to stay with you or visit you when you return from hospital.
- Check your home insurance to see whether the terms change if your home is unoccupied for a certain period of time. Ask someone you trust to check on your home while you’re away.
What happens if I’m admitted to hospital in an emergency?
If you have a fall, a suspected heart attack or a stroke, you may be taken to a hospital A&E department.
The hospital will assess you and decide how best to treat you, taking into account your general health and how it might have contributed to your current situation. Once you’ve been assessed you may be:
- treated and then allowed to go home if support can be provided at home
- moved to a Clinical Decisions Unit (CDU) to be monitored or have tests done to help medical staff decide if you need to be admitted to hospital
- admitted to hospital.
If you are admitted to hospital and have agreed to the treatment you need, the staff should be able to give you an estimated date of discharge.
Will my benefits stop while I’m in hospital?
Your State Pension doesn’t change, no matter how long you’re in hospital. But some payments are suspended if you are in hospital for more than 28 days:
If you transfer from hospital to a care home or community hospital for free short term support known as intermediate care, this counts towards the 28 day limit.
If you receive Pension Credit, suspension of these benefits can affect the amount of Pension Credit you receive. When you leave hospital, you may be eligible to receive these benefits again. However, if your Pension Credit award stops and you are part of a couple where one of you is under State Pension age, you may not be able to reclaim Pension Credit.
Contact the office that pays your benefits to let them know you are in hospital. Then let them know when you leave hospital. You’ll need to quote the number on your award letter for the benefits you receive.
If your stay in hospital is funded entirely by yourself or privately, you should continue to receive these benefits. You should contact the office paying your benefits to let them know.