In the days leading up to your surgery, you'll need to make travel arrangements for getting to and from the hospital, and think about what to pack.

Make sure you give your family and friends plenty of notice about your operation, so they can take time off work to be with you, if necessary.

Check your hospital's policy on visiting times and let your family and friends know. Read more about visiting someone in hospital.

Pre-operative assessment

At some hospitals, you'll be asked to attend a pre-operative assessment, which may be an appointment with a nurse or doctor, a telephone assessment or an email assessment. You'll be asked questions about your health, your medical history and your home circumstances.

If the assessment involves a visit to the hospital, some tests may be carried out, including MRSA screening and blood tests.

This assessment will usually happen one or more days before your operation.

Make sure you know the results of any previous tests, as well as all the medications, vitamins and herbal supplements you take. 

You'll be given clear information on:

  • whether you need to stop eating and drinking in the hours before your operation (see below)
  • whether you should stop taking your usual medications before going into hospital
  • what to bring with you into hospital
  • whether you'll need to stay in hospital overnight and, if so, for how long

Importance of fasting

If your doctor has instructed you to fast before the operation, it's really important that you don't eat or drink anything – this includes light snacks, sweets and water. You need an empty stomach during surgery, so you don’t vomit while you're under anaesthetic.

If you take insulin because of diabetes you'll still need to avoid eating and drinking before surgery, but make sure your medical team is aware of your condition, so appropriate precautions can be taken.


You'll need to remove all body piercings, make-up and nail polish before your operation. This can help to reduce unwanted bacteria being brought into the hospital. Also, the doctors will need to see your skin and nails to make sure your blood circulation is healthy.

What to pack for hospital

If you're staying in hospital, you may wish to pack:

  • a nightdress or pyjamas
  • day clothes
  • reading glasses
  • clean underwear
  • dressing gown and slippers
  • small hand towel
  • toiletries – soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant
  • sanitary towels or tampons
  • razor and shaving materials
  • comb or hairbrush
  • book or magazines
  • small amount of money
  • medication you normally take, and a list of the doses for each medicine
  • notebook and pen
  • healthy snacks
  • address book and important phone numbers, including your GP's contact details

Different hospitals tend to have different rules concerning personal electronic equipment. You may want to check with your hospital about their policy on the use of mobile phones, MP3 players and laptops/tablets during your hospital stay.

Remember to bring your appointment card or admission letter with you too.

Read more about what you can and can't bring with you to hospital.

Getting to and from hospital

Think about how you'll get to the hospital and back again. You probably won't be well enough to drive, so you may want to arrange transport or ask a friend or relative to help. In some cases, the hospital may be able to arrange transport home for you.

Some hospitals will charge for parking. You may be able to check whether you have to pay for parking at your chosen hospital by finding your hospital and selecting "facilities".

Cancelling and rearranging

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

Let your surgeon know if you develop a cough, cold or fever a few days before surgery. They'll advise whether your operation can go ahead.

Preparing your child for surgery

Watch a video about your child's hospital stay to find out how you can prepare your child for a stay in hospital, what to bring, and the facilities available for parents and children.

What happens next?

Read about what happens on the day of the operation for information on what to expect when you're admitted to hospital for surgery.

Pre-operative assessments

Before an operation, you will be asked to do a pre-operative assessment. Find out what this involves and how it helps reduce any risks during your operation.

Media last reviewed: 14/07/2015

Next review due: 14/07/2017

Page last reviewed: 15/01/2015

Next review due: 15/01/2017