Managing your condition

Your healthcare team should provide you with information about preparing for the surgery or treatment you’re waiting for and how to manage your condition while you’re waiting. Ask for guidance from the hospital if they haven’t given you this already. If you’re unsure who to contact, you could ask your GP for help.

It’s important to manage your condition well while you’re waiting. This page has information about:

Our guide Living well with long-term health conditions has more information about how to manage a condition. You could also use our medical appointment planners to help you get the most out of your appointments.

Where to get support

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There may be extra services available that can support you while you’re waiting.

Your GP

Your GP may be able to refer you for additional treatment or community healthcare, such as physiotherapy. They can also advise on things like diet and exercise. There may also be a practice nurse, link worker or care navigator at your surgery who can support you.

If you think your health is getting worse, let your GP know. If necessary, they can contact the hospital on your behalf.

Your local pharmacy

Your local pharmacist can also be a good source of support. They can advise you on your medications. They can also offer advice on healthy living and wellbeing, and help with minor illnesses. Find out more about how your pharmacy can help.

Charities and support groups

The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) provides support and information to patients and their families. Their officers are based in hospitals and can be a useful point of contact. For example, they can:

  • help you with health-related questions
  • put you in touch with support groups
  • help you resolve problems with the hospital.

Charities and other organisations that deal with specific conditions offer a variety of support. They may provide practical advice, such as exercise tips, and information about what to expect when you have surgery. Many have helplines, condition specialists, online forums and support groups.

Find out more about where you can get support with a long-term condition.

Preparing for treatment

There are things you can do to stay well and get your body ready for surgery or other hospital treatment. This will also help you feel more in control. Even small changes can make a big difference to your health.

Stay active

Try to stay active. Regular exercise will help build up your stamina and improve your recovery. Talk to your GP or healthcare team about how much and what sort of exercise you can do, as well as what to avoid.

Your GP may be able to refer you to an exercise scheme at a local gym. Or they may refer you to a physiotherapist, who can work out a fitness plan for you. You may be able to refer yourself directly through the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists website.

If you’ve been given any information about exercises you’ll need to do after surgery, you could start practising them. But get advice first and stop doing them if you’re in pain.

Make lifestyle changes

Try to eat a balanced diet, cut down on sugar and drink plenty of water. This will also help your recovery. Find out more about healthy eating at NHS eat well.

Drinking and smoking can affect your body’s ability to heal after an operation or treatment. You may want to make some lifestyle changes while you’re waiting. Find out more about cutting down on alcohol and where you can get support on the NHS website. If you need help to give up smoking, you can find free stop smoking services in your area.

The Fitter, Better, Sooner resources from the Royal College of Anaesthetists can help you prepare for surgery. The NHS website also recommends this series of health and care videos.

To find out more about what happens when you go into hospital, visit our hospital stays webpages.

Coping with pain

Being in pain can seriously affect your quality of life. Medication may provide short-term relief, but there are other ways to manage pain. Contact your GP if you’re struggling. They may refer you for complementary therapy, such as acupuncture, or a pain clinic for example. The NHS website has more information about how to get NHS help for your pain.

You could also speak to your healthcare team at the hospital for advice about how to manage your pain. They may be able to refer you to an occupational therapy or physiotherapy service.

Organisations that deal with your condition may be able to give you more specific help. They may also have support groups. You can find contact details and other useful resources – for example, to help you describe your pain and how it affects you – at:

If pain and mobility problems mean you’re struggling with daily tasks, like washing and dressing, or they affect how you’re able to use your home, you could ask your local council for a care needs assessment or an occupational therapy assessment. See our Help at home pages for more information.

Looking after your mental health

Waiting for hospital treatment can be an anxious time. It can affect both your mental and physical health. If you’re feeling stressed, you could try mindfulness or relaxation and breathing exercises to help you. You can find useful guides, tools and activities on the NHS website.

Talk about it

You may find it helpful to talk to someone. You could call an emotional support helpline like Samaritans or The Silver Line. Or a specialist mental health helpline like Rethink or Mind. You could also contact support groups for people with your condition. Talking to other people in a similar situation can be very reassuring.

Ask your GP about talking therapies, such as counselling, or self-help resources. These can be very effective for managing your mental health and they can help you find your own ways to cope. You can also refer yourself for talking therapies. There may be a waiting list for these services.

Our webpage has more suggestions for ways you can look after your mental health. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, our free advice guides Managing anxiety and Dealing with depression have information on ways to cope and where you can get support.

Stay connected

A health condition can make it harder for you to get out and do the things you enjoy. Try to stay connected to other people even if you can’t get out. Visit our loneliness hub to find out more about ways to cope and where you can get support.

Ill health can also put pressure on your relationships. Read our webpage Coping with a changing relationship for suggestions on how to deal with this.

Help with money worries

If money worries are troubling you, make sure you’re claiming all the benefits you’re entitled to. Call our Helpline to arrange a benefits check or try our benefits calculator.

If you need help with your personal care because of your condition, you may qualify for a disability benefit, such as Attendance Allowance.

You may have extra costs, such as the cost of travelling to appointments. Find out about help with health costs or see our Moneywise guide for other ways to boost your income.

Making a complaint

If you’re unhappy with how your treatment is being dealt with, you could consider making a complaint. For example, if you’ve been waiting longer than the maximum NHS waiting times or communication about your surgery or treatment has been poor. Our Complaints about care and health services page has more information on how to do this.

You could ask a friend or relative to make a complaint for you if you’re not comfortable doing this yourself. You can also get support from:

You might want to consider getting support from an independent advocate. An advocate can give you practical help and make sure your views are heard. You can find a local independent advocacy organisation through the Older People's Advocacy Alliance. See our factsheet Independent advocacy for more information.

Next steps

Visit our health pages for more information about healthy living, NHS services, your healthcare rights and managing a long-term condition.

Download or order our free guide Living well with long-term health conditions.

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