Visiting someone in hospital

The information in this section is a general guide to visiting someone in hospital. Details will vary depending on which hospital you are visiting. Check on the hospital's website for more information.

Find the contact details of a hospital.

Visiting hours

Most hospitals have times at which you can visit your friend or relative. Check with the relevant hospital for information about when you can visit, and bear in mind that different wards often have different visiting times.

If you are unable to attend during visiting hours, talk to the member of staff in charge of the ward to arrange an alternative time to visit.

Hospitals encourage relatives and friends to visit patients. However, patients can get tired very quickly. For this reason, the number of visitors each patient is allowed is usually restricted, and it might be necessary to stagger the visitors so they come at different times.

Children can be restricted from visiting a patient in the same way that adults are. In some wards, you need to ask permission for children to visit, and some wards insist that children under 12 are accompanied by an adult.

Hand hygiene

When visiting someone in hospital, always clean your hands using soap and water, or alcohol hand rubs. Do this when you enter or leave a patient’s room or other areas of the hospital.

If you're concerned about the hand hygiene of doctors, nurses or anyone else you come into contact with in hospital, you are encouraged to ask them whether they have cleaned their hands.


If you have a cough, cold, diarrhoea, vomiting or any other infectious condition, contact the ward for advice before visiting.

Presents for patients

Patients like to receive gifts while in hospital. Most hospitals encourage visitors to bring gifts such as fruit or books and magazines, but it is important not to clutter the patient's bed area. Check with the ward staff before bringing someone flowers.


Many hospitals do not allow smoking in any part of their buildings or grounds. If smoking is allowed at the hospital you are visiting, only smoke in the designated outdoor areas.


Parking at hospitals is limited and can be expensive. Where possible, use public transport when visiting someone in hospital.

Violence and aggression towards staff

Violence and aggression towards staff, patients or members of the public are not tolerated in any hospital. Assault is a crime, and hospitals will seek the maximum legal penalties for anyone behaving in this way.

What not to do when visiting someone in hospital

  • It's best not to sit on the patient's bed, as this can spread germs. Use the chairs provided.
  • Do not put your feet on the patient's bed.
  • Do not touch the patient’s wounds or any medical equipment they are attached to, such as drips or catheters. This can cause infections.
  • Do not use the patients' toilets. Ask the ward staff where the nearest public toilets are.
  • Do not share property, such as toiletries, tissues or items of hospital equipment, with the patients.

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