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Day surgery, sometimes called day case surgery, means an operation or surgical procedure that does not involve an overnight stay in hospital. 

At the Royal Free London, day surgery takes place at:

  • Barnet Hospital 
  • Chase Farm Hospital 
  • Royal Free Hospital

We now perform around seven out of 10 hospital operations as day surgery thanks to short-acting anaesthesia and our advanced surgical techniques. 

High-quality specialist care is provided with specially trained nurses caring for patients during their time on our day surgery unit.

If you are a day patient, you will generally be discharged home from the unit after only a few hours. 

There are a few patients who use our 23-hour overnight facility and who are discharged first thing in the morning the day after their operation. We will tell you in advance if we plan to keep you overnight.

Please be aware there is no waiting area or facilities for friends and family at our day surgery units, but they will be welcome to use other areas of the hospital.

What must I do before a day surgery procedure?

There are a few things you must do before they you arrive for a day surgery procedure at one of our hospitals: 

1.    Attend a pre-assessment appointment

If you are going to have an operation, you must attend a pre-assessment appointment. You cannot have an operation without doing this. 

At your pre-assessment, our medical specialists will make sure you are suitable for anaesthesia — the method for putting you to sleep for your operation. 

They will also check that you are in good enough health for surgical procedures and give you verbal and written information about the surgery.

2.    Follow instructions about food and drink

You should:

  • not drink any alcohol the night before your surgery
  • not smoke for 12 hours before the procedure
  • have a shower or bath in the morning before coming to the day surgery unit

If you have been asked to come to the hospital for 7.30am, you may have a small glass of water — but no later than 6am.

Do not eat anything after midnight. This includes sweets and chewing gum.

3.    Arrange travel for going home after your day surgery procedure

You must be collected from the day surgery unit as you must not drive yourself home or travel by yourself. 

We recommend that you go home by taxi or car if possible. We discourage you from travelling by public transport because you will still be recovering from the effects of your operation and anaesthesia. 
Minicabs can be booked at the main reception of each of our hospitals. 

4.    Inform us if you need to cancel your appointment

Call us as soon as possible if you cannot keep your medical appointment. 

If you become unwell, develop a cough or cold or cannot come to your appointment for any reason, please call us. 

The phone number for the day surgery unit at each of our hospitals is: 

Barnet Hospital: 020 8216 5056
Chase Farm Hospital: 020 8375 2836 (female) 020 8375 1943 (male)
Royal Free Hospital: 020 7830 2665

Hospital operations for women who are sexually active

Exposure to anaesthetic can be harmful to an unborn child. Please use a reliable form of contraception, or do not have sex, for the time between your last period and the time of your surgical procedure. Do not use condoms.

Managing your pain after your operation

You may need analgesics, or ‘painkillers’, to help manage your pain at home after your operation. 

Please make sure you have a supply of over-the-counter pain relief, for example ibuprofen (a common anti-inflammatory) and paracetamol, and laxatives at home. 

Patients will be prescribed stronger pain medication if necessary.

If you are coming for an operation at one of our three day surgery units, there are a few things you should expect, outlined below.

Watch: what to expect on the day of your operation

Food and drink: before your operation

If the timing of your day surgery means you have been asked to come to us for 7.30am, you may have a small glass of water when you wake. You should drink this no later than 6am. Do not eat anything after midnight, including sweets and chewing gum.

Please have a bath or shower on the morning of your surgical procedures and use the wipes given to you at your pre-assessment. This reduces the risk of infection during medical treatment. However, you should not use the wipes on sensitive areas of your body. 

Please remove any:

  • nail varnish
  • make-up
  • body piercings

On the day of your treatment: what you should bring with you

In order to make sure you are ready for day surgery, please make sure you bring:

•    any medication you are taking, including inhalers
•    a dressing gown and slippers
•    something to help pass the time, such as a book

Please do not bring any valuables with you.

Checking in for day surgery: arriving at the hospital

Once you arrive at the hospital where you are receiving medical treatment, please check in at the reception for the day surgery unit. 

You should tell staff if your personal details have changed. This is so we can update your patient records.

If someone will be helping you home on the day, they should ask medical staff for the number to call to find out when to collect you. You should then enter the day surgery unit alone.

We recommend you take public transport when visiting our hospitals, as parking can be limited. For help finding us, click the links below.

Inside day surgery: how will the day be organised?

Once checked in and inside the day surgery unit, a named nurse is allocated to each day patient. 

Your nurse will introduce his or herself to you when you arrive and advise on how long you can expect to wait before going to the operating theatre.

The operating lists can be all day (8am to 7pm) or morning or afternoon only. We will have asked you to come your hospital appointment at a particular time as we try to estimate the time of your operation as accurately as possible. 

However, sometimes things change — an emergency may take priority on the operating list or a piece of medical equipment may not be available until a certain time. We therefore cannot guarantee the exact time of your surgery. We will try to keep you informed if there is a change to your schedule.

Day surgery procedures: bringing personal belongings with you

The nurse will help you to prepare for your medical procedures. We provide a locker for clothes and other belongings. Patients keep locker keys throughout their stay on the day surgery unit.

Consenting to your surgical procedure and meeting your anaesthetist

Your surgeon will ask you to sign a consent form for the operation and will mark your skin with a pen to highlight the part of your body where your operation will be.

Your anaesthetist will discuss the drugs he or she intends to use to put you to sleep and what pain relief you will have after the operation. 

Sometimes the anaesthetist will choose to give you a regional block, a type of anaesthetic that numbs a specific area of the body only.

Coming in early to meet your medical consultant

Your consultant may have asked you to come into hospital early as they wish to see you before surgery. 

If this is the case, you may experience a wait. We have limited facilities and distractions to help pass the time, so you may wish to bring a book or tablet with you.

After day surgery, you will wake up in the recovery area of the operating theatres. This is known as post op — the period when you are in recovery from anaesthesia, which is the method used to put you to sleep for surgical procedures.

Once back on the day surgery unit, you will be able to have some food and drink. A hospital nurse will decide when you are ready to go home from hospital.

If you have a received a form of anaesthetic known as regional block, the hospital nurse will advise on how to care for the affected limb at home. This is because sensation and movement in your limb will be altered by the anaesthetic, making you vulnerable to injury. 

Sometimes a day patient will stay overnight. If this is the case, you will be told in advance of your hospital appointment. 

If your surgery is prolonged or complicated, or there are unexpected problems during your procedure, you may need to stay overnight in hospital. This may be in the day surgery unit or another hospital ward. 

In both cases, you will need someone to collect you the day after the surgical procedures. Medical staff will contact them if required.

For the first 24 hours after operation, do not:

  • drive
  • operate machinery
  • use a cooker
  • ride a bicycle
  • sign a legal document or engage in any activity requiring skill or judgement
  • take sleeping tablets or drink alcohol

Post-operative care

If you are worried about anything, please contact your GP for a doctor's appointment or call the day surgery unit. The telephone numbers for day surgery at our three hospitals are:

Barnet Hospital: 020 8216 5056
Chase Farm Hospital: 020 8375 2836 (female) 020 8375 1943 (male)​​​​
Royal Free Hospital: 020 7830 2665

In the unlikely event of an emergency go to your nearest emergency department (A&E), taking your hospital discharge letter with you.