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Outpatients and day patients

If you have an appointment in a hospital or clinic but do not need to stay overnight, it means you're being treated as an outpatient or a day patient. You may be having an appointment for treatment, diagnosis or a procedure.

Before your appointment, you'll receive a letter, email or text message from the hospital that includes everything you need to know about your appointment.

You may be offered a face-to-face appointment in a hospital or clinic, or a telephone or video appointment.

You and your healthcare professional will agree the type of appointment you're offered, based on your needs and preferences. You’ll get the same quality of care no matter what type of appointment you have.

You can choose which type of appointment you have, which hospital or clinic to use and which specialist team will be in charge of your treatment, as long as they meet your healthcare needs.

Find out more about your choices in the NHS

Important: Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

You must wear something that covers your nose and mouth when you go to a hospital.

If you're having surgery or a procedure:

  • you, the people you live with and anyone in your support bubble may need to self-isolate before you go into hospital
  • you may need a test to check if you have COVID-19 before you go into hospital

Your hospital will contact you with more information about what you need to do.

Preparing for your appointment

Many patients find it helps to prepare what they want to talk about in their appointment. It can be helpful to write a list of the things you want to discuss. This could include:

  • all your symptoms
  • medicines you're taking including prescriptions, medicines you've bought yourself and alternative treatments. You can bring the medicine packets or your prescriptions with you, or take photos of them
  • any allergies you have
  • any questions or concerns
  • anything your GP has recommended you ask the healthcare professional

You can ask someone to come with you to your appointment, such as a carer, family member or friend.

If you cannot attend your appointment at the time you've been given, contact the hospital or clinic to rearrange it. It may help to have your NHS number with you when you contact them.

If your appointment is in a hospital or clinic, look up where it is and plan how you'll get there. It may be helpful to look up local transport or parking arrangements.

Find out more about how to organise transport to and from hospital

For video appointments you'll need a charged smartphone, tablet or computer with a camera, microphone and internet connection. Test your equipment before your appointment.

Learn more about how a video appointment works

For a telephone appointment, make sure you have provided your up to date telephone number. This could be your mobile or landline phone number. If you plan to use your mobile, check its battery is charged and you're somewhere you can get signal.

On the day

If you have an appointment in a hospital or clinic, remember to bring the details of your appointment with you.

When you arrive, go to the department named in the appointment details and register with the reception or kiosk, at the time you've been given. You may be asked to arrive slightly before your appointment time.

Allow plenty of time for your visit, especially if this is your first appointment. You may have to wait if your healthcare professional's other appointments overrun or they are called away to an emergency.

Your appointment

You may be asked whether you're happy for healthcare professionals who are training, such as medical students or training nurses, to be there during your appointment. You can say no if you're not comfortable with this.

In your appointment, share any information you've prepared with your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional. Giving them this information and asking any questions you have will help you get the most out of your appointment.

Tell the healthcare professional if you're pregnant, have any allergies or are taking any medicines, including prescriptions, medicines you have bought yourself and alternative treatments.

During your appointment, your healthcare professional will talk about:

  • your symptoms or how you manage your health or condition
  • your medical history
  • whether you need any tests
  • how to get your results for any tests you've already had
  • options for treatment so you can decide what would be best for you
  • how to use any devices or equipment you've been given to manage your condition

Together you can decide a plan for your ongoing care. This might mean another appointment with them, with another specialist, or with your GP.

You might be asked to arrange future appointments only when your symptoms or your circumstances change.

If you're unsure of anything, ask your healthcare professional to explain it again, or to write it down for you.

You might find it helpful to take some notes during your appointment. You can look back at these at home or at your follow-up appointment.

Find out more about what to ask your healthcare professional

After your appointment

A couple of weeks after your appointment, you should get a letter or email with a summary of your consultation. The healthcare professional will describe what they discussed with you on the day and explain what the next steps are. If you do not understand the letter, contact the hospital, clinic or your GP.

If you have not received test results as explained by your healthcare professional during your appointment, call the hospital or clinic. Sometimes your GP will also have access to your results.

If you need another appointment, you'll get a letter, text or email about this.

Page last reviewed: 11 February 2019
Next review due: 11 February 2022