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Before surgery - Having an operation (surgery)

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.

Your hospital should contact you with more information before you come in. Details of what you need to do will vary depending on the hospital.

Check the hospital's website for more information.

Find the contact details of a hospital

Pre-operative assessment

You'll be asked to attend a pre-operative assessment. This is an appointment with a nurse, either in person or as a video or telephone call.

You'll be asked questions about your health, medical history and home circumstances.

If the assessment involves a visit to the hospital, some tests may be carried out.

This is to check if you have any medical problems that might need to be treated before your operation, or if you'll need special care during or after the surgery.

The tests you have will depend on what operation and the kind of anaesthetic you're having.

These tests might include tests for infection such as COVID-19, blood tests, urine tests and pregnancy test for women.

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 medicines, 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
  • whether you should stop taking your usual medicines 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

Video: Pre-operative assessments

Watch this video to find out what a pre-operative assessment involves.

Media last reviewed: 1 April 2024
Media review due: 1 April 2027

Importance of not eating (fasting)

If your doctor has instructed you not to eat (fast) before the operation, it's important that you do not eat or drink anything – this includes light snacks and sweets. You may be able to drink water but check with your doctor.

You need an empty stomach during surgery so you do not 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 reduce unwanted bacteria being brought into the hospital. It also helps doctors to see your skin and nails to make sure your blood circulation is healthy.

Some hospitals may request that you have a bath or shower before coming in for your surgery.

What to pack for hospital

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

  • a nightdress or pyjamas
  • day clothes
  • 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
  • medicines you normally take, and a list of the doses for each medicine
  • glasses or contact lenses with case
  • notebook and pen
  • healthy snacks
  • address book and important phone numbers, including your GP's contact details

You may want to check with your hospital about their policy on the use of mobile phones, MP3 players and laptops or tablets during your hospital stay.

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

Getting to and from hospital

Think about how you'll get to the hospital and back again. You will not be able to drive yourself home, so you should 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 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".


If you're unable to attend your hospital appointment or do not feel well enough to have your operation, let the hospital know as soon as possible. They'll be able to talk to you about rearranging the appointment.

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

Video: How to prepare for your child's hospital stay

This video is a practical guide on how to prepare for your child going into hospital.

Media last reviewed: 16 April 2021
Media review due: 16 April 2024

Page last reviewed: 09 July 2024
Next review due: 09 July 2027