What to expect during your stay

Staying in hospital as an inpatient

Settling in

Our staff will do their best to show you around the ward and help answer any questions you might have.

They'll explain how to use the call bells by your bedside, and in the bathrooms and toilets, if you need assistance.

You'll wear a hospital identity bracelet with your name on it. This allows all staff to quickly identify you. If you have an allergy, this bracelet will be red. This is for your safety, so please wear it at all times.

Storing your personal belongings

There is a small cupboard beside your bed where you can store a few of your personal belongings. We do not recommend using it for valuables as there is no lock. We ask you to leave valuables at home if possible. If you've brought valuables with you, please ask a relative to take them home for you. 

We cannot take responsibility for your valuables unless you put them in the hospital's secure facilities. Speak to your nurse if you need help.

Your family and friends

We welcome and encourage your family and close friends to visit you during your hospital stay. Usually visiting times are 2pm to 8pm but this can sometimes change. You can ask the nursing team on your ward for information, or visitors can contact the ward to confirm their visiting times. 

Other ways to keep in touch include video calling using the free app, aTouchAway, calling the ward or the the patient's phone, or sending a letter.

We understand that family, friends and carers will want to call the ward and find out how you are. It's a good idea for 1 person in the family to call us and keep everyone else informed. 

Phone calls

Phone calls from the bedside telephone to UK landlines (01, 02, and 03) are free. Calls to mobile (07 and 08) numbers are free for 2 minutes, but you can call back as many times as you like.

Calls to your bedside telephone cost 13p per minute, plus any standard network charges.

Mobile phones should not be used in some areas of our hospitals. They may interfere with medical equipment or disturb other patients. Where you can use them, please keep them on silent and think of other patients.

Visit the SparkTSL YouTube channel for the bedside unit help guides.


Free access to the internet is available for all patients, visitors and carers. To connect, search for the NHS WiFi network on your device.

Please note that some internet content is blocked. Our free WiFi should not be used for viewing TV programmes or making phone and video calls (including FaceTime and Skype).

You can also use our entertainment units.

Your medicines

Please give all the medicines you've brought in with you to the nurse. They will tell you where and how they'll be stored. Your medicines will be moved with you if you need to change wards. Talk to your nurse if you want to administer your own medicines during your stay.

Please let us know if you're allergic to any medicines.

It's also important that you tell the doctor and ward pharmacist about any medicines you're taking. This includes:

  • prescription medicines
  • medicines you buy from a pharmacy or shop
  • alternative medicines, such as herbal remedies

You can ask your clinical team any questions about your medicines. Your welcome pack includes a leaflet called questions about your medicines.

There's also more information on the your medicines in hospital page.

Your accommodation

See our A-Z of wards to find information about the ward you will be staying on.

You usually stay on a ward that specialises in the care of the condition or illness you have. Sometimes you might stay on a ward with a different specialty. You'll still be seen by your specialist medical team on their daily ward rounds.

Our wards are made up of separate male and female gendered bays. If you have any questions about staying in a bay or on the ward, please talk to a member of staff caring for you.

The toilets and bathrooms close to your bay are for the people in your bay only. You will not need to walk past patients in a different bay to reach your bathroom and toilet facilities.

We have a limited number of side rooms that accommodate 1 person only. These rooms might be used for a number of reasons, such as preventing infection from spreading.

If you need a test or treatment in another part of the hospital, we will make sure that you are appropriately dressed. Your privacy and dignity will be maintained at all times.

Eating and drinking well is an important part of your treatment. We want you to benefit as much as possible from the foods that you eat.

We make all our meals using fresh ingredients in our hospital kitchens. We are proud to hold the Silver 'Food for Life' accreditation. This means all our meals are nourishing, appetising and free from additives.


Mealtimes vary from ward to ward. Approximate times are:

  • breakfast, 8am to 8.30am
  • lunch, midday to 1pm
  • dinner, 5pm to 6pm

Hot and cold drinks are available throughout the day. We offer mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. If you miss a meal, a snack pack can be ordered for you. Please speak to your nurse or food service assistant about this.

We have a protected mealtime policy. Visitors can stay with you if you need their help to eat or drink. Any tests you need should take place before or after meals.

Support with diet and mealtimes

Please let us know if you need help at mealtimes. Please speak to a nurse if you:

  • have lost weight recently without trying
  • feel that you are underweight
  • have a poor appetite

They can refer you to one of our dietitians for assessment and advice.

If someone brings in food or drink for you, please check with the nurse in charge. If you're on a special diet as part of your care it may not be suitable for you to have. 

Menus and dietary needs

You can choose your breakfast, lunch and dinner from our menus each day. Our menus include:

  • hot and cold items
  • vegetarian and vegan options
  • range of food from around the world

Please let our nursing staff or your food service assistant know if you have any food allergies, special dietary needs or religious requirements.

Allergen portal has allergy and nutrition information about our menus.

We cannot reheat food brought in for you. There are microwaves in our retail outlets that you can use. Any food brought in must be in a suitable container and labelled.

Your ward might have a day room where you can watch TV or sit with your visitors. Please ask your nurse for details.

We want you to be able to rest and sleep as well as possible during your stay. Prepare for rest and sleep as you would normally do. Make sure you have anything you might need during the night close at hand.

After 10pm, please keep noise to a minimum. Put any mobile devices on silent and use the headphones provided to listen to the TV or radio. Please also dim the screens of any electronic devices.

After 11pm, the main ward lights will be dimmed. If you need any help to go to the bathroom, please speak to a nurse.

Please ask your nursing team if there is anything you need to help you sleep, such as pain relief, or extra blankets or pillows.

Most wards do not have laundry facilities for patients. We ask you to send your personal washing home with relatives or friends.

Patients, visitors and staff are not allowed to smoke anywhere on our grounds.

If you smoke and are already using treatment, for example nicotine replacement therapy, please bring this to hospital with you.

If you would like help giving up smoking, please speak to our stop smoking service, your doctor, nurse, therapist or pharmacist. We can provide nicotine replacement therapy like patches, to help you with any withdrawal effects. Staff caring for you can then organise continuing support and treatment for you from your local NHS stop smoking service when you leave the hospital.


Entertainment and TV

There are entertainment bedside units on most of our wards. They have TV, radio and phone services. This service is provided by SPARK® TSL.

The bedside TV service is available 24 hours a day.

There are a number of free digital television channels from 6am to midday daily. Hospital radio, BBC Radio 1 to 4 and Capital FM are free. You do not need to register.

Watch the 'How to access free entertainment' video on YouTube.

You can pay for a range of 'on demand' services. These include:

  • TV, after midday
  • movies
  • TV box sets
  • audio books
  • Sky Sports and TNT Sports

Content and prices are available at your bedside or you can phone the customer care team.

You can pay for your entertainment package by:

  • using the bedside unit to select how you would like to receive the payment link. This is sent to your smart device by text, email or QR code. Pay on your smart device using ApplePay, GooglePay, PayPal or your debit or credit card
  • calling the customer care team on 0345 414 1234 and paying by debit or credit card

Watch the 'How to pay for premium entertainment video' on YouTube for more information.

Contact the customer care team to:

  • pay for a range of 'on demand' entertainment packages
  • ask for help
  • report a fault

Phone: 0345 414 1234 for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you're calling from your hospital bedside phone, press the 'operator' button on the phone screen.


Infection control, help us to protect you


To reduce the risk of infection, we might give you a bottle of special skin wash to use in the bath or shower during your stay. If you have any questions about how to use it, please ask the staff caring for you.

You'll be screened for certain infections when you are admitted and if needed during your stay. If you have an infection, you might be asked to isolate in a side room or have a trolley at your bedside, for extra precautions to protect other patients.

Thoroughly cleaning hands is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection. You can help by taking these steps.

  • Clean your hands before meals. If you are not near a hand wash basin, please use the hand sanitiser or hand wipes at your bedside.
  • Clean your hands with soap and water after going to the toilet.
  • Encourage your visitors to clean their hands when they enter and leave the ward, and ask them not to visit you if they are ill.

All staff should clean their hands before any contact with you or the environment. If you are worried that a staff member has not cleaned their hands, you have a right to ask that they do so. If you find this difficult, please talk to the ward sister or nurse in charge.

You might be asked to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as a face mask. This is for your own and others' protection. Please speak with the nursing staff if you have any questions.

Decisions about your care

Your clinical team will talk to you about your condition and options for treatment. We have information and advice about treatment decisions and surgery.

Most people respond well to treatment but it can be important to think about:

  • treatments you would not want
  • where you'd prefer to be cared for

Please tell us if this is the case and consider sharing this with your close family or friends. You can also read our information about advance care planning.

Religious and spiritual care

Our spiritual care team is available for anyone would like someone to talk to. Ask a member of staff to call the spiritual health care team if you would like more information or call 020 7188 5588.

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