Support While You Wait
A message from Sussex Health and Care Partnership
We know that you have experienced a long wait for your hospital appointment or treatment and how distressing this must be. I would like to apologise for this and assure you we are working hard to reach you.
Our staff have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to save lives and keep people safe. Though we must continue to prioritise the most critically unwell patients, we are doing everything we can to address the backlog of appointments with extra clinics and surgical sessions when possible.
To support you while you wait and to let you know that we are still here for you, we have provided this information and advice. It is designed to help you manage your condition and your overall health, so you arrive for your appointment in the best possible physical and mental health.
Adam Doyle, Chief Executive Officer, Sussex Health and Care Partnership
Preparing for your treatment
It is a good idea to prepare your body and mind prior to any treatment
In the time before your treatment, you can take simple steps to help improve your physical and mental health. This can help to reduce your risk of complications from any surgery and improve your wellbeing now and during your recovery. Think of this as ‘Prehabilitation’.
Research shows that people who keep mentally or physically active feel happier and healthier. Maintaining and improve your overall wellbeing will lead to a faster recovery if you require surgery.
It is a good idea to make the most of the time before you see your specialist by stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, getting fitter and drinking less alcohol. Support is available to help you and can be found in the pages in the following section.
Improving your wellbeing
Stopping smoking is hard, but the good news is that quitting or cutting down shortly before treatment can improve wound healing and lung function and reduce the length of any stay in hospital. Preparing for surgery offers a real opportunity to commit to stopping smoking.
If you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce the stress on your heart and lungs. In addition it can help to:
- lower your blood pressure
- improve your blood sugar level
- reduce pain in your joints
- reduce your risk of blood clots after surgery
- reduce your risk of wound infections after surgery
- allow you to exercise more easily.
Your heart and lungs have to work harder after an operation to help the body to heal. If you are already active, they will be used to this. While you are waiting for your operation, try and increase your activity levels.
Brisk walking, swimming, cycling, gardening or playing with your children are all helpful. Try to do any activity which makes you feel out of breath at least three times per week, but always check with your doctor first what type of exercise is most appropriate for you. Activities that improve your strength and balance will also be useful for your recovery.
Alcohol can have many effects on the body, but importantly it can reduce the liver’s ability to produce the building blocks necessary for healing. Make sure you are drinking within the recommended limits, or lower, to improve your body’s ability to heal.
Managing medical conditions
Many medical conditions can affect recovery from surgery. It is important to make sure any known conditions are controlled as well as possible ahead of your surgery.
You can also book in for a general health check at your GP surgery if you are between 40 and 74 years old.
Good control of your blood sugar is really important to reduce your risk of infections after surgery. Think about your diet and weight. Talk to your diabetes nurse or team early to see if they need to make any changes to your treatment.
Blood pressure should be controlled to safe levels to reduce your risk of stroke. Sometimes operations may be delayed if it is too high.
Have your blood pressure checked at your surgery well ahead of your operation – some GP surgeries have automated machines so you can pop in any time. If it is high, your GP can check your medications and make any changes needed ahead of the operation.
Anaemia (low blood count)
If you have been bleeding or have a chronic medical condition, a blood test can check whether you are anaemic. If you are, you should talk to your GP about treatment to improve your blood count before surgery.
Treating your anaemia before surgery reduces the chance of you needing a blood transfusion. It will also help your recovery and make you feel less tired after your surgery.
Heart, lung and other medical problems
If you have any other long-term medical problems, consider asking your GP or nurse for a review of your medications, especially if you think your health is not as good as it could be.
If you have loose teeth or crowns, a visit to the dentist may reduce the risk of damage to your teeth during an operation.
If you are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination, it is recommended that you have this prior to attending hospital appointments or surgery.
To find out if you are eligible, visit the NHS COVID-19 vaccination pages.
If you are eligible and would like to book your vaccination appointment, visit the national booking service.
It’s normal to feel anxious about treatment - improving your health beforehand can help you recover
It’s normal to feel anxious about medical treatment, particularly if you require surgery. People who are able to improve their health and activity levels recover more quickly after treatment.
We all have parts of our lives that we would like to change, from stopping smoking to achieving and maintaining a healthier weight. The good news is that, as well as improving your health in the long term, making those changes ahead of your treatment can reduce your risk of a range of complications and can also help you recover more quickly from any surgery.
Local health and wellbeing services
Your local health and wellbeing service offer free, tailored support for a longer, healthier and happier life - including motivational support and techniques to help you make simple changes to the parts of your life you would like to change. Find out more by visiting your local service:
Emotional wellbeing and mental health
People sometimes feel worried or anxious about an appointment or treatment - this is perfectly normal
It is perfectly normal to feel anxious about an appointment or treatment. For some people with existing mental health conditions this could get worse. It is estimated that one in four of us will experience mental health problems during our lives.
If you feel you may be struggling with your mental health it can be daunting and scary to seek help. We have put together a collection of resources and services to help you help yourself.
NHS mental health pages - information and support for your mental health
Every Mind Matters - advice and tips for looking after your mental health and wellbeing
Mind - a charity providing advice and support
ReThink - factsheets and access to an advisory service
Headspace - an app to help you become less stressed, more resilient and happier
Calm Harm - an app providing support and guidance for those struggling with self harm
SAM - an app to help you understand and manage anxiety
Sussex Mental Healthline - 0800 0309 500, 24/7 (calls are free from mobiles and landline numbers). Dial 0300 5000 101 for Text Relay calls and New Generation Text calls for hearing and speech impaired callers (call costs may apply). A telephone interpreter can be arranged by calling the helpline.
You may be in pain or discomfort while you are waiting for an appointment or treatment
We know that some people will be in pain while they are waiting for an appointment or treatment. Pain can have a huge impact on our lives; from how we move, to our mood and sleep. Frustratingly pain can affect what matters most to us in life; from our relationships with family and friends, to our ability to work or take part in hobbies
Everyone's pain experience is different and everyone has different goals they would like to work towards. Having better knowledge around your condition can help you increase your confidence when making decisions around what to change and how to take control back of your life.
Below are some information and resources for managing pain:
Persistent Pain - Sussex MSK Partnership - information, advice and guidance to support better emotional and physical wellbeing while living with pain.
Live Well with Pain - website for people who are living with persistent pain, information, advice and guidance about living well with pain.
Waiting for your treatment could be affecting your earnings
Waiting for an appointment or treatment could affect how many hours you are able to work, and how much you are earning.
If you are struggling to pay bills, need help with a benefits issue, or are concerned about growing debt, there is free, confidential support and advice available.
Access to Work - Employment support programme that aims to help more disabled people start or stay in work
Your local Citizens Advice can help you find a way forward, whatever the problem. They offer confidential information and advice to assist people with legal, debt, consumer, housing and other problems. Contact your local Citizens Advice office for more information and access to online support.
West Sussex Connect To Support - Information and advice about financial support that may be available for you.
West Sussex Citizens Advice advice line - 08082 787 969, Monday-Friday 09:00-16:30 (calls are free of charge from mobile and landlines)
Support for carers
Carers can need help too - support is available
We know that there are many people who are caring for family and friends while they are waiting for a hospital appointment or treatment. This might include help with washing, dressing, shopping and taking medicines and also emotional support, ensuring that the person feels cared for and not alone.
At your appointment
You will be asked some questions at your appointment - here are some examples to think about
If your appointment is to discuss the possibility of an operation or treatment, the healthcare professional you are seeing will talk to you about:
How your condition is affecting your life and what matters to you
What any tests, examinations or investigations about your condition have found
The possible benefits of having an operation for you
What risks there might be for you from having the operation
How your operation would be carried out and whether you might need to stay overnight
Whether there is a choice of providers for your treatment – sometimes it is possible to have your appointment more quickly by travelling out of your local area or if a private provider has been asked to deliver your care
How long it might take you to recover and what you might need to do as part of your recovery. For example, attending appointments to have your dressings changed.
Whether there are any activities that you won’t be able to do for a while afterwards, for example certain kinds of work, household tasks like cleaning or doing the laundry, or driving
What alternatives to having an operation there might be for you
What would be likely to happen if you don’t have any treatment
Your healthcare professional will also talk to you about how long you might have to wait for your operation and the things you can do to stay as well as possible while you are waiting.
It is ok to ask questions. Your healthcare professional wants you to have all the information you need to help you to decide what the best plan and right treatment is for you. They will also take the time to make sure that you have understood all the information they have given you.
It is your right to be involved as much or as little as you would like to be in decisions about your health and what treatment is right for you.
You do not need to decide at your appointment. If you need more time to think about your options or to discuss these with family and friends, it is ok to ask for this.