The Healthcare Commission's survey of inpatients' experiences, published today, reveals a need for more management focus on the part of the hospital journey that is often neglected - what happens after the operation.

The commission drills down into every nuance of the life of an inpatient, from being offered a choice of admission date to the choice of food - both a common cause of complaint.

But it is the post-operative care that has a striking number of poor scores, with even the best trusts often performing worse at this than other aspects of their work.

Many patients complained they were given inadequate information on how they would feel when they came round, while a whole range of problems stacked up when the time came to head home. There were poor scores for involvement in deciding when to be discharged, while on many occasions anxieties were exacerbated by a dearth of information on what the patient should do once home, what side-effects they might experience and what warning signs of post-operative problems they should watch out for.

Leaving hospital can be a time of exceptional stress for patient and family, as each come to terms with the realities of illness.

While targets and budgets focus on the ways into and through the healthcare maze, the very best management teams will empathise with their patients enough to ensure that they receive just as much care and support as they begin a long journey home.