What to expect when waiting for care

Waiting for planned medical care or surgery can be a frustrating time. That’s why it’s so important that while you wait, you get regular, clear and accessible updates so that you can plan your next steps.
woman wearing a mask using a resistance band and a physio in a mask stands behind her
Updated 1 April 2022

If you or a loved one is waiting for care, read below to find out what healthcare staff should be doing when contacting you.

Communications from healthcare staff should:

Be personalised to you and not just 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.

Ease your 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. Of course, sometimes technical terms are needed, 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.

Be clear around delays and cancellations

If you're contacted about a delayed or cancelled appointment, you should be given a clear reason why - and information about what happens next. Healthcare staff must  open and honest with you and give a realistic timescale when you should expect to hear from them again.

Support should be given 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.

Be clear on who to 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.

Be accessible, in the format you need

Information around your care must be easy to access and provide you with the option to ask questions. It's essential that you receive information in the way you need it. This can often be via phone. However, other options should be available if you have language or communication needs.

Share your waiting experiences with us

We know that not everyone is getting the help they need while they wait for care. Share your experiences with us so that we can understand what needs to be improved.

Everything you tell us is confidential and will help us and the NHS understand what needs to be put in place to better support people like you.

So whether it’s gynaecological surgery, a knee replacement or a biopsy you’re waiting for, if you’ve got a story to tell, we want to hear it. 

Share your views

My Planned Care

The NHS has launched a new website where you can check the waiting times for NHS hospital treatment in England.

This includes treatment at:

  • Addenbrooke's Hospital (listed as Cambridge University Hospital NHS Trust)
  • Peterborough City Hospital and Hinchingbrooke Hospital (listed as North West Anglia Trust)
  • Royal Papworth Hospital

Visit the My Planned Care website

Getting support whilst you wait

Here are a few organisations that should be able to help:

Care Network

Provides information and practical support to help people aged 18+ stay at home and to connect with or support from their local community. 

Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire Mind

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

Versus Arthritis

Runs an online support group for people in Cambridgshire with guests such as physios, rheumatology nurses and other healthcare professionals to help you manage your condition. 

National Support groups

Organisations supporting people living with long-term pain include:

Action on Pain

British Pain Society

Pain Concern


Online guides and self help

Mental Health guides and tools - NHS website 

Tell us about your experiences

NHS and social care staff are doing everything they can to keep us well during these challenging times, but there might be things that can be improved.

Your feedback can help services spot issues that are affecting care for you and your loved ones.

Share your views