Recovering after surgery

Surgery at our hospitals

You recover from your surgery in a recovery area. We help with any pain or sickness that you might have after your surgery.

Depending on your condition, you might be allowed to leave hospital or need to stay on a ward. Your doctors tell you if you need to stay in hospital overnight. If you are not sure, please ask.

Staying on a ward

If you move to a ward, the nurses will give you welcome information about that ward. This includes details about visiting times and facilities.

On the day of your surgery, we tell you and your family member or friend which ward you will stay on afterwards.

While you're in hospital, we give you pain relief after your procedure.

Leaving hospital on the same day

If you leave hospital (are discharged) on the same day, we move you to a single-sex discharge lounge. Please talk to the team if you have any concerns about this.

We give you some light refreshments and do your last set of medical checks. You may want to bring your own light snack if you have any special dietary requirements. Please do not bring food that needs reheating.

You can leave hospital when we think that this is safe for you.

Before you leave hospital

You need to arrange for an adult to stay with you for the first 24 hours after your surgery.

If you had a general anaesthetic or sedation, you might need someone to accompany you home. You also need to follow our instructions to keep safe

Before you leave hospital, we explain if you need any follow-up appointments. We send you the appointment details.

Before you leave hospital, make sure that you:

  • have transport to your home or place of care
  • have someone to stay with you and support you at home
  • have information about a follow-up appointment
  • ask the hospital team for a fit note if you'll be off work for more than 7 days
  • understand how to take any new medicine
  • know how to use any new equipment, such as crutches

Fit note

If the doctor thinks that you'll be off work for more than 7 days, you can ask us for a fit note. This means that you do not have to make a separate appointment with a GP.

New medicines

We might prescribe you new medicines to take after surgery. We explain how to take any new medicines. Please follow these instructions.

After we discharge you, we give you a supply of your new medicines that lasts up to 14 days. We might give you medicines that last for less than 14 days if you need them for a shorter time (such as some pain medicines).

You might need to wait to collect your new medicines from the hospital pharmacy. This can take 4 to 6 hours.

We send your GP a copy of the letter that we prepare when you leave hospital (your discharge letter). This letter explains any changes to your medicines. If you need more medicine, you can ask your GP. The letter tells your GP if you will continue any new medicines for longer than the 14 days' supply we have given you.

For help with medicines after you leave hospital, please call the medicines helpline on 020 7188 8748 or email [email protected]

We answer the phone from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and aim to respond to emails within 2 working days.

To get support from a community pharmacist, you can ask to take part in our discharge medicines service.


We can help book transport home if someone from your family cannot collect or accompany you. We can also help with the cost of transport or give you free transport if you are eligible.

Find out more about help with travel.

Recovery after you leave hospital

It may take you a few days or weeks to feel fully recovered after your surgery. This depends on the type of surgery that you had.

How much support you need after surgery depends on your condition and what procedure you had. We give you specific advice about how to care for yourself when you leave hospital.

It's important that you come to any follow-up appointments.

Wound care

You may have stitches that need to be removed 7 to 10 days after leaving hospital. This appointment is booked with the nurses at your GP surgery.

Read more about:


There are different types of pain. The type of pain that you feel depends on what's causing it. You can get more than one type of pain at a time.

Acute pain is short-term pain that usually lasts for a few months. It often starts as a sharp or intense feeling before gradually improving.

During your recovery, you may be asked to describe your pain. We give you medicines to help manage the type of pain that you describe.

You can expect to take regular painkillers for 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. The amount (dose) of your painkillers and how often you take them reduces as your pain improves. We give you advice on how to take these medicines.

If you feel that your pain is not being controlled after you leave hospital, talk to your GP about this.

Mental health support

Recovering from surgery not only affects your body, but also your emotions. You might need support to help you make sense of the experience, especially if your surgery has been life-changing.

The NHS website explains how to find mental health support in your local area.

Keeping well

As you did before surgery, it's important to keep well after surgery. You need to continue to eat well, not smoke, drink less alcohol, control your blood pressure and look after your mental health. Our vital 5 ways to stay healthy guide gives you practical guidance about these things.

Your team tells you how much activity you can do after your surgery. They explain when you can exercise and how much.

We can arrange extra support if you need it. This could be from:

Follow-up appointment

We phone you after you leave hospital to check how you are doing.

You have a telephone or face-to-face appointment 2 to 4 weeks after you leave hospital. This is to check on you and give you any results from your procedure. Depending on your results, we may need to refer you to a specialist for more treatment.

If you do not hear from us about a follow-up appointment, please contact the hospital team who cared for you.

If you have any concerns about your care, please contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).

Resource number: 5312/VER1
Last reviewed: August 2022
Next review due: August 2025

Trusted Information Creator. Patient Information Forum

If you are worried about your recovery

The general practice nurse at your GP surgery can give you advice after surgery. They might be able to help with any complications or difficulties that you have.

The hospital team who cared for you should arrange a follow-up appointment. They might give you information about the support available before or after your follow-up appointment, and when you should contact them. 

Urgent help

If you have serious symptoms, or symptoms that are getting worse quickly, you need urgent care and advice using NHS 111. Go to or call 111.

In an emergency, call 999 or go straight to your nearest emergency department (A&E)

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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