7 step guide to surgery
1. Booking an appointment with your surgeon
You can often choose which hospital to go to.
Your GP might book your first appointment at the hospital for you. If they don’t, you’ll get a letter with a reference number to book online or over the phone.
Once booked, you should get a confirmation in the post.
2. Seeing your surgeon
Approx 6 weeks
Appointment: approx 20 minutes
This is the time when you decide if you want treatment.
Your surgeon explains your options and you can decide the best treatment together (surgery might not be an option).
They usually book your surgery date (you’ll get a letter asking you to confirm the date and time is ok).
Questions to ask your surgeon
It’s helpful to ask about:
- types of surgery and anaesthetic
- alternatives to surgery
- benefits, side effects and risks
- waiting times
- length of hospital stay
- recovery times
- when you can return to work / drive
You can ask anything you want - it’s your time with the surgeon
3. Confirming your surgery date
Approx 2 weeks
You’ll get a letter confirming your surgery date.
You can change it (the letter tells you how) but you might have to wait several weeks to get a new one.
4. Checking you’re fit for surgery
Approx 3 weeks
Appointment: approx 60 minutes
If you’re having a general anaesthetic, you’ll have a hospital appointment with a nurse to check if you’re fit enough for surgery (usually the week before surgery). If you’re not, the operation may be postponed.
This is called a pre-op (pre-operative assessment).
How the hospital checks you're fit for surgery
A nurse will ask about your health and do things like:
- check your blood pressure and heart rhythm
- do a blood test
- weigh you
- test you for bacteria, like MRSA
You may also speak to your anaesthetist.
Take any medicines with you (including vitamins or supplements).
5. Getting ready for surgery
Approx 2 weeks
The pre-op nurse will tell you how to prepare for surgery.
You might have to change or stop taking your medicine.
Don't eat or drink anything before your surgery. You'll be told exactly when to stop - it’s usually:
- 8 hours before surgery (eating)
- 2 hours before surgery (drinking)
6. Day of your surgery
When you get to hospital, go to the reception desk at your ward.
Take the letter confirming your surgery date with you.
Before your operation
A nurse helps you change into a hospital gown and checks things like your blood pressure.
Your anaesthetist talks you through your anaesthetic.
Your surgeon asks you to sign a consent form and may mark where they’ll operate on you.
Someone can be with you for this.
If you have a general anaesthetic
You’ll be taken into the anaesthetic room, where your anaesthetist will put you to sleep.
After your operation
You’ll go to a recovery room where a nurse looks after you.
If you had general anaesthetic, you may feel drowsy, sick and have some pain - ask the nurse to give you medicine to help.
When you’ve recovered from the anaesthetic, you’ll be moved to another ward until you can go home.
7. Going home and recovery
You can go home when you:
- feel well enough
- can eat and drink
- can pee and walk (if you’re not in a wheelchair)
You’ll be told by the doctor when you’re likely to be allowed home. Make sure you’ve arranged for someone to take you home and stay with you for 24 hours.
You’ll get a discharge letter explaining your treatment (your GP gets a copy).
If needed, you’ll get medication or painkillers to take home.
If you need a sick note, tell the nurse.
Help with recovery
Follow the hospital’s advice about taking medication, painkillers and looking after surgery wounds. It’s normal for surgery wounds to feel uncomfortable for a few days.
Try to move around as soon as possible (it helps you heal faster)
You can do gentle activities like walking.
Speak to the hospital or your GP if:
- your wound becomes swollen, red and feels hot
- fluid leaks from your wound
- you have a very high temperature (you feel hot and shivery)
- you’re vomiting
- you can’t pee
If you can’t, call 111 for advice or visit your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.
If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.