An inpatient is a patient who is 'admitted' to the hospital and stays overnight or for an indeterminate time, usually several days or weeks.
The information in this section will help you prepare for your stay in hospital, with tips on what to bring with you and what to expect on your ward. Parents and carers can also find information about child hospital stays in this section.
If you have any comments or suggestions - or you are concerned about any element of your treatment or our service during your stay - please speak to the ward sister, ward matron or head of nursing for that area. Staff on the ward will be able to give you contact details.
Before you leave home
You should have received a letter with your admission date and details about where to go for your stay: please remember to check which hospital you are due to attend.
If you are uncertain about any of this information, you are unable to make your admission date, or if you are unwell in the run-up to your appointment, please call us on the number on the admission letter.
It is important to let us know if you cannot attend for any reason, so that we can offer your appointment time to somebody else.
What to bring with you
To make your stay easier and more comfortable, please make sure you bring:
- Your admission letter, together with any other information we have sent you
- Identification, such as your passport or driving licence
- Dressing gown
- Comfortable daywear
- Personal toiletries including a towel
- Any tablets and medicines, prescribed by your doctor or purchased from a pharmacist, which you take regularly
- Books, magazines, writing materials, knitting or other items to help pass the time
- A small amount of cash for the hospital shop and phones
- Proof of entitlement to free travel costs (if applicable)
- Your glasses or contact lenses, if you wear them
- Your hearing aid, if you have one
- Any mobility aids you may need
- Items of religious importance to you.
What not to bring
Please do not bring items of financial or sentimental value into hospital. Hospitals are public buildings and, although we have a dedicated security team, we cannot accept liability for money or valuables which are not handed to us for safe-keeping.
Please ask your family to take home jewellery, money, bank cards, cheque books, portable electrical equipment, keys and other valuables. If this is not possible, please ask a member of staff to take items into safekeeping and your items will be locked in the hospital’s safe.
You will always receive a receipt for your items, which you must keep to reclaim your valuables.
Please also avoid bringing portable televisions or radios. Radio headphones are provided free, and we have bedside televisions, available to hire.
What if I need an interpreter or signer?
If you can, please let us know in advance. If this isn’t possible, please tell the ward staff when you arrive.
Discuss your care with us
If you or your carer or relative need any information or want to discuss any aspect of your care, please speak to the nurse or ward manager in the first instance. If you then require further support, contact the matron.
If a matron is not immediately available, please leave a message with the senior nurse on duty and a matron will contact you as soon as possible.
During your stay you may meet many different specialists, for instance phlebotomists, physiotherapists or occupational therapists, and volunteers.
On arrival on your ward
When you arrive on your ward, you will be welcomed and shown to your bed. The nursing and medical staff will talk to you about your individual needs. We will ask you to wear a plastic identity bracelet at all times.
We will ask you to give details about yourself, including the contact name, address and telephone number of the person you would like us to contact in an emergency, eg your wife, husband, partner, friend or a relative.
There is a bedside cabinet in which you can keep your personal belongings. No valuables should be left at the hospital. You will also find a bedside folder in your cabinet when you arrive. This contains useful information for your stay.
We may wish to transfer you to another part of the ward, or to a different ward, at some time during your stay, particularly if you were admitted as an emergency. If this is necessary, your nurse will explain the reasons to you.
Venous thrombo-embolism (VTE) assessment
If you are admitted to one of our hospitals for treatment, you should receive an assessment for your risk of developing VTE (a blood clot) whilst you are an inpatient.
If you do not think you have received one, or if you have any questions about VTE during your stay, please speak to a nurse, doctor or other member of staff.
Telephone enquiries by friends, relatives or family should, if possible, be made by one or two people, who can then pass on any information to the rest of the family and friends. We will only give information, with your agreement.
Patient confidentiality will be maintained at all times and therefore the amount of information staff will be able to provide over the telephone will be limited.
Every effort is made to ensure that you are treated in privacy and with dignity during your stay. If you have any concerns, please talk to a member of staff.
In the hospital
All wards have an individual routine and this will be explained to you when you arrive. You may find you are woken earlier than you are used to at home. This is because some patients need to receive medication, or have their blood pressure or temperature taken, early in the morning.
When it comes to settling down at night, it is likely to be earlier than you are used to at home - many patients feel particularly tired at the end of the day and want to settle early. The main lights will be switched off, but there is a reading lamp next to your bed.
Meal times are generally:
- Breakfast: 7.30am - 8.30am
- Lunch: 12noon - 1pm
- Dinner: 5pm - 6pm
These times are approximate and may vary slightly from ward to ward. If you miss a meal because you are having treatment or tests, you can order a snack box from the catering department. Please speak to your nurse if you wish to do this.
You will be able to choose your lunch and dinner through our menu card system, and indicate whether you would like a small, standard or large portion.
The catering host will offer you a choice of hot and cold beverages from the drinks trolley six times a day. If you would like a beverage out of hours, please ask the nursing staff.
Please do not bring perishable food and drink, or food and drink that requires refrigeration or heating with you.
Please let your nurse know as soon as possible if you have any special dietary requirements, for instance for health or religious reasons. We can provide a range of special diets and, if you would like, the catering manager will visit you to discuss your requirements.
Protected meal times
This means they are set aside solely for you to eat your meals. There are specific times for breakfast, lunch and dinner, where all non-urgent activities on the ward will stop.
We find that patients prefer eating their meals with fewer distractions on the ward, and without interruptions. In addition, good nutrition and healthy eating is an important factor in helping you recover from illness or injury.
Protected mealtimes allow nursing staff, healthcare assistants, therapists, volunteers, other ward staff and our caterers to focus on making sure you receive your meals quickly and that patients who need help to eat get it. They also allow staff to monitor your food intake to ensure you are eating and drinking the appropriate amounts of food and drink.
During protected mealtimes, nursing staff and therapists will:
- Prepare the ward for meals, including clearing away clutter and commodes
- Ensure patients are positioned safely and comfortably for their meal
- Make sure patients get the correct meal
- Assist in opening packaging, cutting food and, where necessary, feeding patients and recording their nutritional and fluid intake
- Make sure red trays are used where indicated by a malnutrition universal screening tool (MUST) assessment.
During mealtimes, routine ward rounds will not take place and nursing staff will not perform routine medicine rounds. The washing of patients will stop too, as well as non-nutrition related therapy and the taking of blood.
All staff and volunteers are strongly discouraged from interrupting mealtimes unless absolutely necessary and all non-ward-based clinical staff should leave the ward, unless they are involved in food delivery.
All non-essential clinical activity will stop, including patients leaving the ward for non-urgent investigations. However, all emergency treatments will still be carried out.
During breakfast and lunch, visiting is restricted to those visitors and carers who are actively assisting patients with their meals. After lunch, there is a rest period from 1pm - 2pm. During this time, visiting will be restricted and clinical interaction with patients is kept to a minimum to allow patients to rest.
Who looks after you?
Once you arrive on the ward, you will be welcomed by a member of the nursing team who will show you around the ward.
A team of people will be involved in your care, and will be clearly identifiable by their uniforms and identification badges. However, there are many different members of staff at the hospital and if you are unsure at any time about who you are talking to, please do ask.
In most cases, a consultant (a senior doctor) has overall responsibility for your medical care while you are in hospital, but you will be looked after by multidisciplinary team. If you have any questions about your condition or treatment, please ask your consultant or nurse.
Radios, televisions and telephones
The system, provided by Hospedia, also allows you to watch television or films, make and receive telephone calls, send and receive emails or browse the internet. Some of these services are chargeable - more information about services and prices can be found here.
Each ward also has a direct line telephone number, which the nurse will give you when you arrive so that you can pass it on to friends and relatives. Please bear in mind that our staff have to keep information about you confidential.
Because of this, if your friends or family call the ward, staff will only be able to give out limited information about your health.
In addition to the Hospedia bedside terminals, some wards also have day rooms and it’s possible to watch television there if you wish.
Our hospitals are teaching hospitals - this means some doctors teach medical students during their clinics as well as on the wards. If you do not want other doctors present during your examination please let us know.
Mixed/single sex wards
You will usually be placed in a ward specialising in the care and treatment of the particular condition or illness that you have. Most of our wards have male and female patients, but we will always try to make sure you are cared for within a designated male or female area of the ward. There will be single sex toilets and washing facilities nearby.
In exceptional circumstances, this may not be possible. If this is the case, the situation will be explained to you when your bed is confirmed. Please tell us if you find this unacceptable, and we will try to arrange a different bed for you as soon as possible.
Smoking is not permitted in any hospital building or in any of the surrounding areas including the car parks. We ask all patients and visitors to go off site to smoke.
Infection control and prevention
Infection control is one of our top priorities. Good hand hygiene in the hospital is very important - it prevents the spread of infection by reducing the build up of bacteria, which occurs naturally on hands.
- Please wash your hands frequently - especially before eating and after going to the toilet
- Rub your hands all over with the alcohol gel when moving from one area to another - it is available at the entrance to all wards and in clinical areas
- Wear slippers when walking around the wards, this keeps your feet clean so that bacteria are not transferred from your feet to the bed
- Please do not sit on other patients' beds - this provides an ideal opportunity for bacteria to spread.
- Please ask visitors not to come if they are feeling unwell themselves. When they do visit you, please ask them not to sit on your bed.
Read more about infection control and prevention, including our statistics.
Spiritual care / chaplaincy
Chaplains are available 24 hours a day to everyone, regardless of faith, and also to those with no religious belief who would just like some support during their stay.
We also have access to leaders of many other faiths: just let us know who you would like to speak to and we will arrange this for you.
Most wards don’t have laundry facilities for patients, so please ask your relatives or friends to take your washing home with them if possible.
Post is delivered to and collected from the wards every day.
Comments, suggestions and complaints
If you have any comments or suggestions, or you are concerned about any element of your treatment or our service, please speak to the ward sister, ward matron or head of nursing for that area (the staff on the ward will be able to give you contact details).
Who is who on the ward
All members of staff should wear an ID badge which includes their name, job title, photograph and the trust logo. We also have photo boards on our wards, with pictures of the people that work on the ward regularly and their roles.
Our staff should always introduce themselves to you by name. If they don’t, please feel free to ask who they are.
There will be many staff involved in your care while you are in hospital, here are some of them.
Consultants, doctors and junior doctors
You will be under the care of a senior doctor, called a consultant. Your consultant is in charge of a team of doctors with different amounts of experience: registrars, senior house officers, and house officers.
Doctors are responsible for the diagnosis, care and treatment of illnesses, infections, diseases and the wellbeing of people. The doctors in your consultant’s team will work together to look after you.
Junior doctors are doctors in postgraduate training, starting at graduation with a medical degree and culminating in a post as a consultant, a general practitioner (GP), or a staff grade or associate specialist post.
One or more of the doctors will visit you regularly. Please ask if you want to speak to your consultant or one of their team about your treatment.
Meet our consultants
Matrons provide strong visible leadership and support for all ward sisters / charge nurses.
They enable staff to ensure that the fundamentals of care are correctly and actively in place and that high standards of holistic care are achieved.
They directly manage ward and departmental sisters.
Clinical nurse specialists
Clinical nurse specialists provide specialist nursing care to patients with specific medical conditions and their families.
They also act as a resource for other professionals by utilising expert knowledge, skills and experience.
Clinical nurse specialists act as an interface with the multidisciplinary team and external agencies.
Ward managers (sometimes called senior sisters or charge nurses) are responsible for ensuring that high quality nursing care is delivered within their designated clinical area.
They assist in setting the standards for clinical practice, in conjunction with the multidisciplinary team and monitor patient outcomes.
Staff nurses are responsible for the delivery of high quality nursing care to patients and to work as part of the multidisciplinary.
This will be achieved through hands on clinical practice, education and training and research.
Midwives provide care to women in both the hospital and community environment environment. They provide antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care to women.
They work closely with the GP and the Obstetric team to provide optimum care to women and their families.
Healthcare assistants work under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional.
Working alongside nurses, for example, they may sometimes be known as nursing auxiliaries or auxiliary nurses.
Healthcare assistants also work alongside qualified midwives in maternity services.
The types of duties include the following:
- Washing and dressing
- Helping people to mobilise
- Bed making
- Generally assisting with patients overall comfort
- Monitoring patients conditions by taking temperatures, pulse, and weight.
Working under the guidance, supervision and instruction of the ward manager and other qualified staff on the ward, a ward clerk maintains paper work, uses a computer for record keeping and deals with telephone enquiries on a ward.
Porters take you to and from the various places you go for treatment.
A cleaner will be on the ward during the day and the early evening and is responsible for cleaning the ward, including your bed space.
Toilets and bathrooms are cleaned in the morning and checked periodically through the day for cleanliness and replenishing of hand towels, toilet roll and hand soap.
However, should you find these facilities unacceptable at any time, please inform a member of the ward nursing team and a cleaner will attend the ward.
Cleaners are on the ward from 8am until lunch time and then again briefly after lunch and early evening. Outside of these hours nursing staff will assist you with any cleaning issues you may have.
There is also an out of hours 'rapid response' service which can be accessed through a member of the ward staff.
Your discharge arrangements and plan will be discussed with you or, where appropriate, a relative or carer, before you go home. If you are worried about anything, please let one of your nurses know.
Clothing and keys
Remember to ask your main visitor to provide you with suitable clothing to wear whilst in hospital, as well as to travel home in. Please also make sure that you have your door keys available.
The day you leave hospital
You may be transferred to the patient discharge lounge to wait to be collected. This is to ensure that we have time to prepare your bed for the next patient, so that they do not have to wait longer than necessary. A member of staff will explain any medication you have been given, will discuss follow-up appointments and relevant support services and will offer advice on how to make the best recovery after your treatment.
A letter explaining the treatment you have had will be sent to your GP.
In most cases a family member, carer, friend or partner will be asked to collect you from hospital.
A patient transport service is available for those patients who have a medical need for it. If you qualify for this service, the waiting times to be collected once you have been booked as ready to leave are:
- St Helier Hospital - within 90 minutes
- Epsom Hospital - within two hours.
Please check you have all your belongings ready to take with you on the day you are to be discharged. If you have items deposited with the hospital cashiers, please ask a member of staff to help you retrieve them during the morning of the day you are being discharged, or on the Friday morning if your discharge is planned for the weekend.
Returning to normal activities
The speed at which patients recover after treatment is different and therefore staff will give you advice specific to your needs, for example, when you can return to work, start driving, etc. Please ask ward staff for advice on anything that is concerning you.
We aim to provide you with a copy of your discharge summary when you leave the ward so that you have a record of your admission to hospital and the plans for any future care. A copy of your discharge summary will also be sent to your GP.
If necessary, you will be provided with a 14-day supply of medicines to take home with you when you are discharged from hospital.
There will be information on how and when to take these medicines in the bag and a nurse or pharmacist will go through this with you in case you have any questions.
Your GP will also receive a copy of this information. Remember to contact your GP in good time if you need to have another prescription after this.
If you have any questions about your medicines or their side effects, please contact our medicine information line on 01372 735 251 (Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm).
Sickness certificate (if required)
Please ask a member of the ward staff in advance if you require a sickness certificate.
If additional support is required
Together with you, we will check your needs and abilities and organise follow-up care or services if necessary.
People who undertake a substantial role as a carer can request a carer's needs assessment from their local social services department.
Patient Discharge Lounge
You might be asked to stay in the patient discharge lounge while you wait for your prescription, transport or your friend or relative to collect you. You will only be asked to wait in the lounge if you are well enough to go home, and it means we can give your bed to someone else who needs to come into hospital.
Saying thank you
We receive valuable support from a number of charities who are always grateful for donations, goods and - if you are able to volunteer - your time. In addition, you can support our work directly through making a donation to our charitable funds.
If you would like to say thank you to a specific member of staff, why not nominate them for an award?
Please also remember that you can let other people know what you think by rating us on the NHS Choices website (opens in a new window).