If you’re coming for NHS treatment at one of our hospitals, you may have questions about what to expect during your stay. 

On this page, you’ll find out what you should bring with you, information about our hospital wards and what the arrangements will be on the day you’re due to go home. 

We’ll send you a letter to confirm when you should arrive for your stay at one of our hospitals.

This will include details such as the date you’ll be admitted to hospital, information on which of our London hospitals you’ll be having your operation or medical treatment at, and where you need to go on arrival. It will also include details of who to contact if you have any further questions.

Please follow the instructions in the letter. Sometimes hospital patients are admitted to a different ward from the one stated in the letter, so please check which hospital ward you’ll be on before telling any visitors.

How to find us

It’s a good idea to bring the following items with you so you can be comfortable during your stay and hospital staff have the most up-to-date information about you. 

Before leaving home, check that you have:

  • your hospital admission letter
  • all the medicines you take
  • details of any community services you use, such as district nurses or social workers (this is to help us organise for your return home from hospital)
  • comfortable daytime clothes
  • night clothes
  • slippers
  • brush or comb
  • toiletries 
  • glasses, hearing aids, dentures and walking aids, if you use them

Towels and disposable flannels will be provided.

Some patients like to bring tissues, ear plugs, a sleeping mask, writing paper, books, pens, electronic devices and loose change for newspapers. These can be very useful if you’re going to spend some time in the hospital ward.

The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust will not accept responsibility or liability for any lost or damaged patients’ property, under any circumstances, unless it’s been handed in and signed for by a member of hospital staff. We strongly advise you do not bring the following items to our hospital wards:

  • valuables — jewellery, chequebooks or credit cards
  • large amounts of money
  • large amounts of food
  • clothes other than those listed above
  • alcohol or tobacco products
  • portable televisions or radios

If there’s an item you wish to keep safe and you need to leave the hospital ward for a test, please ask a nurse to take them. Our hospital staff will keep them somewhere safe. 

We’re a smoke-free trust and smoking and vaping are not permitted on our grounds or in our buildings. 

If you smoke and would like some support to stop smoking while you’re an inpatient, please ask your doctor to refer you to our friendly and supportive stop smoking team. 

What to expect on the ward

Our hospitals provide patients with same-sex accommodation in accordance with NHS England and NHS Improvement guidance. This helps to ensure patient dignity and privacy is respected and makes staying in hospital more comfortable.

It’s extremely rare for us to ask men and women to share a hospital room or bay. 

In exceptional circumstances where a patient’s need for specialist or urgent medical care overrides the priority for them to have same-sex hospital accommodation, staff will ensure the patient's privacy and dignity are maintained.

All members of the healthcare team looking after you will introduce themselves. They wear name badges so you can identify them easily. 

Each shift you will be allocated a nurse. Your allocated nurse will be able to explain your daily routine and any common procedures you may have during your stay. They will keep you and/or your loved ones updated about your progress and will be able to answer any questions you may have about your recovery. 

Most of our nursing and health professional staff wear uniforms. These are the uniform colours of the staff you’re most likely to meet on our wards: 

  • Nursing or healthcare assistants wear grey uniforms. 
  • Student nurses wear white uniforms or blue uniforms with a navy piping. 
  • Nurses wear blue uniforms with a white stripe and senior nurses, charge nurses and sisters wear navy uniforms with white piping. 
  • Matrons/senior matrons wear navy uniforms with red piping. 
  • Bed managers/flow coordinators wear black uniforms. 
  • Domestic assistants wear pink uniforms, porters wear orange and food hostesses wear turquoise uniforms. 
  • Therapists wear white tunics with green or navy trousers.

We provide a cupboard next to your hospital bed for your personal possessions. It’s not lockable and should not be used for valuable items or medicines. 

On many of our hospital wards a bedside medicines cabinet is also provided, but this is for storage of medicines only. No other storage space is available.

We have protected mealtimes on all our adult wards. This means that at set times throughout the day, all non-urgent clinical activity stops so that patients can eat their meals without interruption. 

The protected mealtimes are: 

Lunch: 1 to 2pm 
Dinner: 6 to 7pm 

We have a variety of menus to meet your dietary preferences, cultural or religious needs. If you have any special dietary requirements, a dietician can help arrange suitable choices. 

Outside of mealtimes, there is access to food, drinks and snacks 24 hours a day. Please ask a member of staff should you need anything to eat outside of mealtimes. 

We serve hot drinks during the day (mid-morning, mid-afternoon and early evening) and you will also have a jug of water which is refreshed twice a day. 

If you need any help with eating and drinking, please let a member of staff know. Sometimes it’s helpful for your family members or carers to come in during mealtimes and assist you with your meal. We welcome their support. They should speak to the nurse in charge about this.

Food hygiene regulations mean we’re unable to store or reheat food brought in from home. 

Free Wi-Fi is available on our wards, as is our hospital radio

If you’d like to access any other service, such as hiring a TV (usually for a charge) or booking a hairdresser, please ask a member of staff for details.

Your treatment as an inpatient

Ward rounds take place every weekday morning (Monday to Friday). This is when the team looking after you will review your progress and update you on your treatment plan.

This will also be an opportunity to ask questions about your care. If you require your family to be updated, please inform the doctor that you give permission for them to have an update on your treatment plan. There are no ward rounds at the weekend.

Before you receive treatment at any of our hospitals, your doctor will explain what he or she is recommending and answer your questions. No medical treatment is carried out without your consent.

Your consultant and their team of doctors are responsible for your medical care while you’re in hospital. 
If you have any questions about your medical condition or treatment, please ask.

The ward sister or charge nurse has overall responsibility for your nursing care. A registered nurse will be identified to care for you on every shift. 

A nursing care plan is developed and put in place following your admission to the hospital to make sure your care is consistent while you’re staying with us. 

If you have any questions about your care, please ask to speak to the ward sister or charge nurse.

The Royal Free London is a teaching trust and medical students often accompany a doctor or medical consultant on the ward. 
If you do not wish to be seen by a medical student, please tell the ward sister or charge nurse. Choosing not to have a student will not affect your care.

We aim to respect your privacy, dignity and religious and cultural beliefs at all times. Please tell us about any special requirements, such as diet or washing. 

We fully respect that it’s a patient’s choice to refuse hospital treatment in advance. 

This is known as an advance decision, advanced statement, or living will, and is a way of making a patient choice known if the patient becomes mentally incapable of:

  • giving consent to NHS treatment
  • making informed choices about NHS treatment
  • being fully involved in the planning of medical care

Medical staff must follow any valid and applicable advance decision and give your other wishes serious consideration. 

We’re committed to the importance of patient opinion in these matters. Please do not hesitate to ask us for further advice on making an advance decision. 

Going home from hospital

Part of ensuring the best possible care for you is arranging a smooth return home at the end of your stay in one of our hospitals. 

Some of our patients can wait in our discharge lounge before they leave hospital. This could be whilst you’re waiting for prescriptions, patient transport or for someone to collect you, or before being transferred to another unit or hospital. 

The discharge lounge is a safe and caring environment where qualified nurses will ensure everything is in place before you leave.

We’re careful to ensure proper arrangements have been made before you go home from hospital.

Your GP will know that you’ve gone home and what medical treatment you have received during your stay with us. We also contact your next of kin to make sure you’re expected at home.  

An outpatient appointment may be made for you. This means coming back to hospital for one of our clinics to receive advice or treatment. Clinic appointments will either be made before you leave or sent to you later.

Your ward sister is responsible for you leaving your ward and will make necessary arrangements before you go home from hospital. 

You’ll be sent home with up to four weeks' supply of medicines. A pharmacist or nurse will explain your medicines to you before you leave hospital. 

Should you have any further questions, please ask the pharmacist or call our medicines information helpline on 020 7830 2983 (11am to 5pm, Monday to Friday).

If you brought medicines with you into hospital, these will be used over the course of your medical treatment with us, if possible. Your medicines will be resupplied when you leave.

Your GP will be sent a hospital discharge summary which outlines what treatment you’ve received in hospital and what care is required once you leave. Details of your medicines will be included in this summary and will go into your patient records

Some patients need further help, such as care at home, meals on wheels, or a district nurse. We’ll happily discuss any homecare options with you and your carers.

Other useful information

Click the links below for other information you might find useful for your hospital stay.