An outpatient is a patient who is not hospitalised (doesn't stay overnight) but who visits a hospital, clinic, or associated facility for diagnosis or treatment.
The information in this section will tell you more about your appointment and why it is important to keep it, your treatment at the hospital and facilities and support services we offer at our hospitals.
Patient initiated follow-up service to be rolled out
An initiative that aims to give patients more control over their health condition is being rolled out across some services at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Known as the Patient Initiated Follow-Up Service, this innovative way of working is designed specifically for patients with stable long-term conditions, and allows people to contact and access their clinical teams as and when they have a flare up of their condition.
The aim of the service is to reduce unnecessary visits to hospital, and to improve patient waiting times, which in turn releases the clinical teams to see new and more complex patients in a timely manner.
The programme was piloted successfully at the Trust in October 2019 for patients of Ear, Nose and Throat services, and will now be extended to cover the following services: Surgery, Medicine, Women and Children’s and clinical Services.
Each patient will be assessed on an individual basis for their suitability for Patient Initiated Follow-Up by the clinicians responsible for their care. If they are deemed suitable, they will receive training about how to manage their condition at homes with instructions on how to access the Patient Initiated Follow-Up service if they need help or advice at any time.
Miss Andrea Sott, Divisional Medical Director for Planned Care and Orthopaedic Surgeon, said: “This programme allows our patients to contact us quickly and directly if they need advice, support or would like to have an appointment to review their health condition, and puts the individual at the heart of our services. Rather than the Trust creating an appointment that our patients might not necessarily need or want, this means our patients can make arrangements that suit them and their needs. Research has shown that having a regular outpatient appointment does not always help to prevent a patient’s condition returning, speed up rehabilitation or identify new problems. In fact, many people find the routine follow up visits to the hospital cause a lot of unnecessary anxiety and disruption to their already busy lives”.
Mr Ravi Hehar, Clinical Lead of Ear, Nose and Throat at Epsom and St Helier hospitals added: “Since we began trialling this at the end of last year, the new service has created the ability for patients to directly access the specialist clinical teams for their condition when they most need it. For all other concerns, unrelated to the condition for which they are under the specialist, or if patients are feeling unwell, their GP remains their first point of contact.”
To ensure that patients find the service beneficial, feedback will be gathered regularly.
The new service has been developed as part of the Planned Care Improvement programme. This is a clinically-led strategy to ensure health and care services across Sutton and Surrey and surrounding areas can remain safe, are of a consistently high standard, and can be financially sustained not just for the next five years, but well into the future.
If you have any questions or concerns about our new Patient Initiated Follow-Up Service, please call our Outpatient Booking Centre on 020 8296 2968.
Once your appointment has been booked with us, you should receive a letter confirming the time, date and location. Please remember to check which hospital you are due to attend.
Your appointment time
Please be on time for your appointment - if you do arrive late, people who are on time may be seen before you. It is not recommended that you arrive more than ten minutes before your appointment time, unless you are required to visit another department for tests before your clinic appointment.
Every effort is made to run the clinic on time, but some patients need longer appointments than expected or doctors get called to emergencies. Please be understanding if your appointment is delayed.
How can I change or cancel my appointment?
Once you have been referred by your GP, you can easily make, change or cancel your appointment by calling the service directly - the contacts details can be found on your appointment letter. You can also find contact numbers for our services in the our services section of our website.
If you are uncertain about any of the information in your appointment letter, or if you are unable to make your appointment, please call the number on your letter.
Your appointment letter may also ask you to bring certain items with you (see below), or ask you to visit another department for tests before your clinic appointment.
Appointment reminder service
A few days before you're due into hospital, you may receive a telephone call or a text message reminding you of your upcoming appointment.
The telephone calls are made using an automated service or calls made by staff at a UK-based call centre.
The service is easy to use, and by following the instructions in the telephone call, you will be able to confirm who you are before being given your appointment details. You can then press the appropriate button on your telephone to confirm, cancel or rearrange your appointment.
The service is free of charge for those who wish to participate and if you do not wish to receive a call or text, opting out is simple. To opt out of the service, you will need to call the service you are due to attend directly - these can be found in our services. Calls to these numbers are charged at a standard rate.
Cancellations by us
We try our best to keep every appointment we make.
However, medical emergencies and unforeseen circumstances mean that we sometimes have to cancel appointments. If this happens, we are sorry for any inconvenience caused and will arrange a new date for you as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, we cannot reimburse you for any costs incurred as a result of a cancellation.
What to bring
Please remember to bring:
- Your appointment letter, and any other information that we may have sent you
- Any medicines or inhalers that you are using regularly, including any alternative remedies or herbal medicines that you are taking
- A small amount of money in case you need to buy a drink or snack
- Information about any change in your personal details, such as a new address, a new GP, or a different next of kin
- A book, a magazine or something to read
- Proof of entitlement to free prescriptions, if applicable (eg unemployment benefit documents, medical exemption card, or proof you are under 16)
- Proof of entitlement to free travel, if applicable.
What if I need an interpreter or signer?
Please call the number on your letter before you come for your appointment. If this is not possible, please tell the staff at the clinic of your needs as soon as you arrive.
Help for people with disabilities
More infomation about wheelchair access, disabled parking, the patient transport service, community transport options and help for people with sensory impairments can be found on help for people with disabilities.
When you arrive
Please report to the clinic reception desk so that staff know you are in the waiting area. You will then be called when it is time to see your doctor.
You will be seen by a senior clinician who is responsible for your care. This is most likely to be a consultant (a senior doctor) or a member of their medical team. However, you may be seen by a nurse consultant, a nurse specialist, a midwife or a therapist, depending on your needs.
If you are unsure at any time about who you are talking to, please do ask.
A chaperone may also be present. For more information about chaperones, please see What is a chaperone leaflet [pdf] 2MB.
At the hospital
Infection control and prevention
Infection control our top priority. We have made impressive progress in cutting infection rates and we can build on our success with your help.
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 clinical areas.
After your appointment, if you need new medicines urgently,you will be asked to collect the medicine from the hospital's pharmacy.
Pay phones are available throughout the hospitals.
Mobile telephones should not be used in certain areas, so please check with staff before you use your phone.
Smoking is not permitted in any hospital building or in any of the surrounding areas. We ask all patients and visitors to go off site to smoke.
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).