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Outpatients and day patients

If you have been referred to hospital but do not need to stay overnight, it means you're being treated as an outpatient or a day case.

You have the right to choose which hospital to go to for your outpatient appointment and which consultant-led team will be in charge of your treatment.

Find out more about choosing a hospital or consultant

Once your appointment is confirmed with the hospital, you'll receive an admission letter from the hospital that includes everything you need to know about your appointment.

Find out more about going into hospital as an inpatient or outpatient

On the day

Go to the department named in your letter and register with the reception.

Do not forget to bring your admission letter, as the receptionist has to check that all your details are correct. Let them know if there are any changes to your personal details.

Your admission letter may state that you should arrive 10 to 15 minutes earlier than the appointed time.

This will allow for any pre-assessments. For example, a healthcare assistant or nurse may need to measure your weight, height and blood pressure before you see the doctor.

Although you have an allocated time slot for your appointment, you may have to wait as other appointments can overrun or the doctor may be called away to an emergency.

Hospital staff will always try to keep you informed about any delays.

You should allow plenty of time for your visit, especially if this is your first appointment.

Your consultation

Your appointment may be in a teaching hospital. This means medical students or training nurses can be present during your consultation.

If you do not want them to be, inform the doctor or nurse in charge. It will not affect your care in any way.

Although your GP should have provided the hospital with all your health records, this may not always be the case, especially if it was an emergency referral, so be prepared to repeat your patient history and describe your current problems.

Tell the doctor if you are pregnant, have any allergies or are taking any medicines.

Take a sample of your current medicines (in their original container, if possible) to your appointment, including medicines you have bought yourself and any alternative medicines.

It can help to write down everything you want to discuss on the day, including a list of:

  • all your symptoms
  • medicines you're taking
  • any questions or concerns you have
  • anything your GP has recommended you ask the doctor

This will help you get the most from your appointment.

You should make notes during the appointment. Often, there's a lot of information to digest. Taking notes allows you to refer to them at home or at your follow-up appointment.

The following things should be explained to you during your consultation:

  • what might be wrong
  • whether you need any tests
  • which treatment is best for you
  • what happens next and who to contact

Find out more about what to ask your doctor

After your appointment

At the end of your consultation, the doctor will tell you if you need further tests or a follow-up appointment.

If you have already had tests, ask your doctor when and how you'll get your results.

Call the hospital if you do not receive the results as explained by the doctor. Do not wait until your next appointment.

If you need a follow-up appointment, staff at the hospital will arrange this.

Generally, you'll be given a note at the end of the consultation to hand in at the reception desk.

The receptionist will then arrange a suitable date and time for your next appointment before you leave.

The hospital will also send you a new admission letter, and often a reminder letter, for your next appointment.

If there are any changes to your appointment, you'll be informed beforehand and provided with a new appointment, if necessary.

A couple of weeks after your hospital appointment, you should receive a letter with a summary of your consultation.

In the letter, the consultant will describe what was discussed on the day and explain what the next steps are.

Letters about your care

When doctors write to each other about your care, they should aim to give you a copy of their letters or emails.

If you do not get a copy, you can ask for one.

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