Overview 

Enhanced recovery is a modern, evidence-based approach that helps people recover more quickly after having major surgery.

Many hospitals (although not all) have an enhanced recovery programme in place, and it's now seen as standard practice following surgery.

Sometimes referred to as rapid or accelerated recovery, enhanced recovery aims to ensure that patients:

  • are as healthy as possible before receiving treatment
  • receive the best possible care during their operation
  • receive the best possible care while recovering

Having an operation can be both physically and emotionally stressful. Enhanced recovery programmes try to get you back to full health as quickly as possible.

Research has shown the earlier a person gets out of bed and starts walking, eating and drinking after having an operation, the shorter their recovery time will be.

The enhanced recovery programme

If you need to have an operation, ask whether there's an enhanced recovery programme in place at the hospital you're going to.

As part of the enhanced recovery programme, you'll be able to play an active role in your care. You'll be able to choose what's best for you throughout your treatment with help and advice from your GP and healthcare team.

Important points to consider before your operation include:

  • eating well – your body will need energy for repair
  • exercise – keeping physically active before your operation will help you recover quicker
  • relaxation – try to relax and not worry about your operation
  • smoking and alcohol – giving up or cutting down will help speed up your recovery and reduce your risk of developing complications

Your GP will give you advice about getting into the best possible shape prior to surgery. They'll also identify and stabilise any health conditions you have that may affect the operation.

At this stage, your GP should ensure you understand all the treatment options available to you, so you can make an informed decision about whether to proceed with surgery.

Your overall experience should be improved due to high-quality care and, where possible, high-quality services, such as keyhole surgery.

Following surgery, you'll also have access to rehabilitation services such as physiotherapy. This will help speed up your recovery and enable you to be discharged from hospital as soon as possible so you can return to normal life.

Depending on your operation, you may be able to go home sooner than usually expected. It's therefore important to plan and prepare for your return home before you go into hospital.

Read more about having an operation.

Who can benefit from enhanced recovery?

Enhanced recovery programmes are currently available for the following types of surgery:

Finding out more

Speak to your GP if you're considering having planned surgery. They'll advise you about whether enhanced recovery is suitable for you. Not all hospitals offer enhanced recovery programmes, but the number that do is growing all the time.

The NHS Improving Quality website has more information about recovery, rehabilitation and reablement. You can also download its booklet called Improving Adult Rehabilitation Services in England (PDF, 792kb).

Page last reviewed: 21/10/2014

Next review due: 21/10/2016