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Preparing for your hospital stay

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If your child has an arranged admission (not an emergency admission) you will have received information at your pre-assessment appointment or received a letter with the admission date and details about where to go. Please read this information carefully.

It will contain any special instructions for your child that you need to follow before their procedure, such as whether they are allowed anything to eat or drink beforehand. If you are unsure of any of this information please telephone the number on your letter

See also: Cancelling or rearranging an appointment or admission

Preparing for your hospital stay during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the past few months, COVID-19 has meant many changes have been needed to allow care to be delivered safely. This has meant many children waiting for surgery or tests needed to make them feel better or prevent their condition getting worse. 

The Royal College for Paediatrics and Child Health has produced information for parents/carers 

To summarise, it is important that your child has their operation, however it is equally important that you feel safe to bring your child into hospital. A number of measures have been put into place to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission in hospital. 

During your child’s stay, all staff will follow infection control measures, including wearing masks. Sometimes they may wear visors, gloves, hoods or surgical gowns. This is to help to protect all patients, visitors and staff. 

We want your child to be prepared for coming into hospital at this time. Edinburgh Children's Charity have produced a very good video for explaining Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to children.

Video created by Edinburgh Children's Hospital Charity

COVID-19 swab

Your child will usually have had a pre-assessment appointment by telephone. During this we will arrange for a COVID-19 swab to be taken, either before your child is due to come into hospital or on the day of admission. We will do everything we can to ensure that we have the results available for your child to go to theatre.

What should you bring with you to hospital?

If your child has an arranged admission your letter will help with what to bring.

For your child you will need to bring:

  • clothes and shoes or slippers for daytime
  • night clothes for their overnight stay
  • any toiletries they may need.

Younger children:

The hospital supplies disposable nappies for children in hospital. if your child has a bottle or feeder cup please bring this with you.

Keeping your child entertained:

WiFi is available on the ward and you (or your child) may wish to take a phone or a tablet with you.

To help your child feel more secure you may also wish to bring:

  • A favourite toy or blanket
  • Favourite books or games

Our playrooms are currently closed but play therapists are available on every ward and can help with activities for your child. Please ask if you would like to meet the play therapist.


Vending machines are available in the hospital atrium, you may wish to bring a small amount of change for these.

We discourage families from bringing valuables into the hospital.

Videos to help prepare your child for their hospital stay

The What, Why, Children in Hospital website has helpful information on preparing your child for their hospital stay: 

Preparing for hospital

This video helps families prepare for hospital by talking about questions like: Should I tell my child in advance they are going to hospital? When do I tell them? How much do I tell them about what is going to happen in hospital? How could I use play to prepare? How can I help my child when they are anxious? What support is available in hospital when my child finds it difficult to have a procedure? 

What happens during a General Anaesthetic?

We show children having a general anaesthetic before their operation. The anaesthetist explains what will happen, how they make sure you are asleep during your operation and how quickly you will wake up again. Rory tells us how it felt to have a general anaesthetic.

Play to prepare children for a General Anaesthetic

When your child needs to have a general anaesthetic before their operation it can be helpful to prepare them through pretend play. This video shows how you could play with your child the day or morning before you go to hospital. By using yoghurt pots, pretend sleepy gas and sleepy medicine they prepare Lily the giraffe and Lewis the lion for their operations. This video with pretend hospital play is aimed at younger children and those at an early stage of development.

If your child is unwell before their appointment
If your child is unwell or has developed a fever when they are due to come into hospital you should telephone the secretary of the consultant who is responsible for your child's care. This information will be on your appointment letter.

To contact the secretaries, phone 0141 2010000 and ask for the named consultant's secretary.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic please do not attend the hospital for an arranged admission or appointment if:

  • your child is unwell
  • you child has been traced as a COVID-19 contact, or if
  • you have been asked to self-isolate.

The secretary will be able to provide advice about what to do next.


Editorial Information

Last reviewed: 12 January 2021

Next review: 29 January 2024