Outpatients and day patients

If you've been referred to hospital but don't 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. See the choosing a hospital section for more information.

Once your appointment is confirmed with the hospital, you will receive an admission letter from the hospital that includes everything you need to know about your appointment. See Hospital admissions for more detailed information.

On the day

Go to the department named in your letter and register with the reception. Don't 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 therefore 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 don't 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 all your records to the hospital, 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.

Inform the doctor if you are pregnant, have any allergies or if you are taking any medicines. Bring a sample of your current medicines (in their original container, if possible) to the appointment, including medicines you have bought yourself and any alternative medicines.

It can help to make a list at home of everything you want to discuss on the day, including a list of all your symptoms, medicines, any questions or concerns you already have, and 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 is a lot of information to digest – taking notes allows you to look up certain elements at home or to refer back to them at your follow-up appointment.

However, the following things should have been 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

Read our guidance for questions to ask your doctor for more tips.

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 done, ask your doctor when and how you'll get your results back.

If you don't receive the results as explained by the doctor, call the hospital. Do not wait until your next appointment.

If you need a follow-up appointment, this will be arranged by the hospital. Generally, you will 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 this, the consultant will once more 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 don’t get a copy, you can ask for one.

Page last reviewed: 07/03/2016
Next review due: 07/03/2019