Treatments and appointments at Health and Social Care (HSC) hospitals are free for all UK residents. Find out more about the hospital admissions system in Northern Ireland and what you can expect from a stay in hospital.

Going to hospital

If you and your doctor (or other healthcare professional) decide that you need to see a specialist for further treatment you will be referred to a hospital that provides the specific service.

Being admitted to hospital

If you need to be admitted to a hospital, your doctor, dentist or other healthcare professional will arrange this for you.

You may be admitted to a hospital that is a centre for specialised care if you require complex treatment.

Depending on the nature of tests or treatment that you require, you can be admitted to a hospital as either:

  • an outpatient - you are referred to see a hospital consultant for a specialist opinion, without the need for a hospital bed
  • a day patient/day case - you need a hospital bed for tests or surgery, but do not need to stay overnight
  • an inpatient - you need a hospital bed because you have to stay in hospital for tests or surgery

Arranging an appointment

You may be given a date and time for your appointment or you may be asked to telephone the hospital yourself to arrange an appointment on a convenient day.

You will be told what will happen during and after your appointment and a telephone number will be provided for you to ring if you have any questions.

Your hospital will then write to you with details of your appointment.

Staying overnight at hospital

If you are admitted as an inpatient at a hospital, it's recommended that you bring the following:

  • personal toiletries
  • nightdress or pyjamas
  • dressing gown
  • a pair of slippers
  • any equipment that you use, such as a walking or hearing aid
  • any medication that you are taking, or information detailing current treatment

What to expect in hospital

While every patient's case is different, there are some things that you can expect during your time in hospital:

  • your nurse or doctor will clarify what is wrong with you and explain the treatment that needs to be carried out
  • you can discuss the treatment and if you decide to go ahead with it, you will be required to give written consent
  • you'll be involved in all decisions about your treatment throughout your stay in hospital
  • staff will, at your request, make sure a friend or relative is kept informed of your progress
  • your privacy will be respected
  • doctors and nurses treating you will be sensitive to your religious, spiritual and cultural needs
  • your healthcare is the priority, and the treatment you receive will not be affected by gender, sexuality, age or disability
  • efforts will be made to offer you a bed on a single sex ward where possible and any dietary requirements will be assessed


Making a complaint

If you are not satisfied with the level of care you receive in hospital, you should contact the hospital you are unhappy with to try to resolve the matter.

If you are still not satisfied you should contact your local HSC Trust.

If you are still unhappy, you can contact the Northern Ireland Ombudsman.

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