The information in this section is a general guide to visiting someone in hospital.
Details will vary depending on which hospital you're visiting. Check on the hospital's website for more information.
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're 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. But patients can get tired very quickly.
For this reason, the number of visitors each patient is allowed is usually restricted, typically to no more than 2 people at any one time.
It might be necessary to stagger the visitors so they come at different times.
There can be restrictions on children visiting a patient.
Check the arrangements with the ward you're going to before your visit.
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're 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 like fruit or books and magazines, but it's important not to clutter the patient's bed area.
Many hospitals do not allow flowers on the wards or other clinical areas. Check with the ward staff before bringing or sending someone flowers.
Many hospitals do not allow smoking, including e-cigarettes, in any part of their buildings or grounds.
If smoking is allowed at the hospital you're 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're attached to, such as drips or catheters. This can cause infections.
- Do not use the patients' toilets. Use the hospital's public toilets.
- Do not share a patient's toiletries, tissues or hospital equipment with other patients or leave them in communal areas.
Page last reviewed: 3 January 2019
Next review due: 3 January 2022