What to expect when waiting for care

Waiting for planned medical care or surgery can be frustrating. Even more so when you are not being communicated with whilst you wait. This article explains what you should expect during your wait for treatment.

Communications from healthcare staff

There are a number of criteria that communications from healthcare staff should meet when you recieve them. They should:

Be personalised to you and not just be a generic response

When you’re contacted by healthcare staff about your upcoming appointment, they should provide honest information about your next steps. You must be made aware of realistic timescales and what to expect while you wait so that you can make an informed decision about your treatment.

Put you at ease around safety concerns regarding COVID-19

Significant steps have been taken to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission while in hospitals. But, if you have any concerns about your safety while in hospital, you should be given contact details to discuss these concerns with a healthcare professional.

Use clear language

When healthcare staff contact you, the language they use should be clear, accessible and easy to understand – whether that’s by letter, email or on the phone. Some techincal terms may be necessary, but these should always be explained to you first.

Share their decision making

You should be part of the conversation when decisions around your health are being made. Healthcare staff should support you to make the right decisions for you and outline the risks and benefits of going ahead with, cancelling or delaying your procedure.

Share your experience

If you would like to share your expereince of health and social care, whether it is positive or negative, you can do so on our website.

Share your views

Delays and cancellations

Unfortunately delays and cancellations are an unavoidable aspect of health and social care. However, there are still actions the healthcare provider can take to limit the impact of this.

When contacted regarding a delay or cancellation to your appointment, you should be provided with a clear reason and information about what happens next. Healthcare professionals must be open and honest with you and give a realistic timescale when you should expect to hear from them again. Further support should be provided to you to help you manage your condition whilst waiting for care. This could be information about or access to other health and care services, or access to pain relief. Above all, it should be clear who you should contact if your condition gets worse. Your safety should always be the priority.

If you are waiting for an operation and this gets cancelled for a non-clinical reason on the day you were due for surgery, your hospital should offer you another fixed date within 28 days or fund your treatment at a date and hospital of your choice.

Not getting the support you need? 

Here are some organisations that can help, and a description of the service they provide.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP)

The CSP have a range of resources you can use, including information on managing pain at home. 


Endometriosis UK

Endometriosis UK run a support network to offer those affected by endometriosis the support and information they need to understand the condition and take control.



ESCAPE is a method for managing either knee and hip pain or back pain. 



Waiting for treatment can affect your mental health. Mind has information and resources about where to go for support. 


Stroke Association

Find local support groups and advice to support your recovery from a stroke. 


Versus Arthritis

Versus Arthritis run a helpline, manage an online community and have a range of resources to help you manage your condition.