Our current waiting times

First appointment From appointment to treatment*
4 weeks 8 weeks
*The actual time you wait for surgery at Southampton NHS Treatment Centre will depend on many factors, including whether further diagnostics or tests are required, patient choice and how quickly the NHS will approve the funding for your treatment. Nevertheless the vast majority will be in the range detailed above.

Please note: waiting times displayed are indicative and can change on a daily basis.

What is tonsillitis?

What is tonsillitis?
Your tonsils are two glands which sit at the back of the throat and during childhood help us to fight infection. As we get older the role of the tonsils decreases and in most cases they shrink. Comparatively common in children but less so in adults is tonsillitis, a painful infection of the tonsils.

What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis can be caused by a viral infection such as the common cold or flu (and this is the most frequent cause) or by a bacterial infection which can cause complications.

Symptoms include:

  • A sore throat or pain when swallowing
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Ear ache
  • A high fever of more than 38 degrees Centigrade or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit

When should I seek treatment for tonsillitis?

In most cases tonsillitis gets better after a week with painkillers, plenty of fluids and rest. Where it is caused by a bacterial infection antibiotics prescribed by your GP will also aid recovery.

However, some people suffer from chronic tonsillitis which is where the condition lasts for longer, and/or keeps coming back. In these cases surgery may be necessary where at least three out of the following criteria are met:

  • Sore throats caused by tonsillitis
  • A chronic infection of the tonsils which stops you from functioning normally, eating or drinking
  • Seven or more episodes of tonsillitis in the preceding year which have been well-documented, clinically significant and adequately treated
  • Five or more episodes of tonsillitis in each of the two preceding years
  • Three or more episodes of tonsillitis in each of the three preceding years

What does the treatment of tonsillitis involve?

Removal of the tonsils is called a tonsillectomy and is carried out under general anaesthetic. The main methods include:

  • Cold steel surgery, where the tonsils are cut out with a surgical blade and the bleeding is controlled by either applying pressure or sealing the blood vessels using diathermy
  • Diathermy, which is a probe used to destroy the tissue around the tonsils and to remove them while simultaneously applying heat to seal the blood vessels
  • Cold ablation, which works in a similar manner to diathermy but which uses a lower temperature and is considered to be less painful than diathermy
  • Lasers, which are used to cut away the tonsils and seal the blood vessels
  • Ultrasound, which is used in a similar way to lasers

How long does tonsillitis surgery take?

Surgery takes between 30 minutes and one hour.

How long will I be in hospital?

You will usually go home on the same day as your surgery, but may have to spend a night in hospital depending on the time of day you had your surgery and your reaction to the general anaesthetic. If you are in and out in one day you will be advised to have someone who can get you to and from hospital – you will not be able to drive until the general anaesthetic has fully worn off.

What are the results of tonsillectomy?

With the tonsils removed there will be no further instances of tonsillitis. You are likely to experience pain for a week or two after a tonsillectomy and this can be managed with painkillers.

Swallowing can be difficult after surgery but you are encouraged to eat and drink because this aids recovery. Cold water will not only keep you hydrated but also helps to relieve pain by contracting the blood vessels. Avoid fizzy or acidic drinks (they will sting) and do not drink alcohol – this widens the blood vessels and can result in bleeding.

Regular tooth brushing and using a mouthwash will help prevent infection.

What are the risks and complications of tonsillectomy?

Tonsillectomy is a comparatively risk-free procedure. Some people experience ear ache after the operation but this is common and not a cause for concern.

Bleeding is common where the tonsils have been removed for anything up to 10 days after surgery and 1 in 30 adults will experience some bleeding after their operation. Minor bleeding usually clears up by itself and can be helped by gargling with cold water.

If bleeding is severe or if you are coughing up blood, you should seek medical attention immediately. Use the emergency contact number we have given you or call 111.

Pre-operative assessment:

A pre-operative assessment is our opportunity to ensure that the procedure for which you have been referred is right for you. We’ll explain your treatment to you and make sure that you are well enough to go ahead with it. It is also your opportunity to meet the team who will care for you and to ask any questions.

We carry out all the necessary tests and examinations in one outpatient session. While this may take several hours, everything is done in one go to save frequent visits before surgery.

NHS treatment:

Tonsillectomy is sometimes available on the NHS and where it is we will treat you as an NHS patient. In order to be treated at Southampton NHS Treatment Centre you will need to be examined and referred to us for treatment by your GP. Remember, it is your right to choose where you receive your NHS treatment and we are part of that choice – if we are not offered as a choice do not be afraid to ask for a referral to us if you would prefer to come here for treatment. Call us on 0333 321 8269 or write to us via the contact form.

Paying for yourself:

Where a tonsillectomy is not available on the NHS, or where the number of NHS procedures available has been reduced and has resulted in a longer waiting time, you can choose to pay for your treatment yourself via our self pay option.

Self pay is available if you find you are not eligible for NHS-funded care and do not have private medical insurance.

Self pay is available for you at Southampton NHS Treatment Centre if you find you are not eligible for NHS-funded care and do not have private medical insurance. You will need an open referral letter from your GP (we can help you with this – just call us on 0330 058 1775). Because we don’t include all of the costly extras you may associate with private hospital treatment, paying for yourself could cost you considerably less than you might imagine too. There are also financing options available, to help you spread the cost. Find out more here: Self pay information.

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Please note: this form does not start the referral process – ask your GP to refer you to us if this is your choice. This form can be used to enquire about being referred to us or request further information about a treatment.