Visiting patients at the Royal Free London

Updated: 4 April 2022

Visiting at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

The period of COVID-19 has been a very difficult time for patients, visitors and staff in terms of restricting face to face visiting and reducing the risk of infection in our hospitals. 

Because many of our patients are elderly or immune-compromised, infection control policies remain in place with the trust. This includes wearing a face covering while you are inside our buildings and adhering to hand hygiene and social distancing rules. Thank you for your understanding and keeping patients, visitors and staff safe from infection. 

The following types of visiting are now being offered for patients in our hospitals.

Pre-booked visiting

For adult in-patients at Barnet Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital (except for those listed below) a face-to-face visiting appointment can be arranged. Patients are permitted one hour of visiting per day and during this hour there can be either one visitor or two visitors at the same time. Patients cannot have two people visiting at different times of the day.

Patients can have different visitors each day, it is no longer a requirement for patients to have nominated visitors.

Children over the age of 16 years are treated as an adult and are permitted to visit. Children between the age of 11-16 years can only visit in exceptional circumstances and this must be arranged directly with the ward matron and consultant. Any arrangements for children under the age of 11 years need to be discussed with the ward matron on an individual basis. 

Visitors will no longer have to complete the COVID-19 screening form on each visit and although we would encourage visitors to take a lateral flow test before attending hospital, this is no longer a mandatory requirement. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, cold or flu or if you feel unwell please do not attend the hospital.

Visitors will need to book their visiting appointments online in advance. If there are two visitors, the second name must be included in the booking form and both visitors should arrive together. 

The process you will need to follow for pre-booked visiting is:

  • Access the online booking platform, which will enable you to select the ward your loved-one is on and book a visiting slot. Once you’ve completed the booking you’ll receive a text message confirming the visiting appointment. If you unable to use the online booking system, please contact the ward your loved one is on.
  • When you arrive at the front entrance to our hospitals, you must show security your booking confirmation.
  • Wear a face mask before entering the hospital
  • Wash hands/apply hand gel as you enter the hospital
  • Complete the visitor contract which you will receive at the ward 
  • Maintain social distancing from staff and patients (except the patient you are visiting)
  • Wash/gel hands as you leave the ward.

Pre-booked visiting is not permitted for:

  • Patients with COVID-19
  • Patients on a surgical ward dealing with ‘waiting list’ operations (where the patients have self-isolated before coming into hospital)
  • Patients who have a lowered immune system. 


Compassionate visiting

Compassionate visiting for adult in-patients means that visiting of one family member for at least one hour can occur daily if the patient meets any of the following criteria:       

  • They are dying (last days and hours of life)
  • They have a mental health issue, dementia, a learning disability or autism
  • Where the attendance of a key contact will benefit a patient's clinical condition or wellbeing  (ward staff will get in touch if a visit will be beneficial)
  • Children and young people (See below)
  • Maternity (see below)

In-patients – Enhanced carer visiting

Enhanced carer visiting is offered for people who pre this hospital admission where the main carer for a patient with dementia, a learning disability, autism or at end of life. The visit can be for longer than an hour and will be agreed by the nurse in charge, and will be to ensure the patient and carer can have their needs met.

Intensive care unit

For patients in Barnet Hospital's intensive care unit please speak to the Barnet ICU liaison team (020 8216 4050 available 8am-8pm, seven days a week) to arrange a visit.

For patients in the Royal Free Hospital's intensive care unit, please speak to the nursing team (020 7794 0500 extension 24545 available Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm) to arrange a visit.


A partner / companion may attend all early pregnancy unit, obstetric ultrasound and antenatal clinical appointments. A nominated partner may attend for induction of labour and latent phase of labour, extended throughout the 24 hour period during the daytime and overnight. A doula can be permitted in the labour room in place of the partner / companion. Both antenatal and post natal women on the ward can have a visit from their partner either between 9am-1pm or 2pm-6pm.  On the ward the woman will be advised at the time which slot is available to them and their partner.

Children and young people

We encourage the involvement of parents/carers in all aspects of their child's care. With the restrictions on space and the need to maintain social distancing we ask that only one parent/carer stays with their child in both the emergency department (ED) and the ward. Where parents/carers need to swap over to give the resident parent a break we ask that you do this outside of ED or the ward area. Your co-operation is much appreciated.  Siblings are not currently permitted to visit.

Emergency department

We are currently accommodating our patients’ needs for a companion as much as possible but we need to do this as safely as possible for everybody and also take account of over-crowding in the department.  Those attending with minor injury or illness will be expected to do so alone.  However, one close family contact is permitted to accompany a patient to support them with complex/difficult decision making if: 

  • The patient is a child
  • The patient has dementia
  • The patient has a learning disability
  • The patient lives with mental ill health
  • The patient attends with major injury or illness

Neurological rehabilitation centre at Edgware Community Hospital

The NRC in-patient unit and outpatient service are offering pre-booked and compassionate visiting as detailed above. Please discuss compassionate visiting requests with the ward manager, key worker or therapist in out-patients. Please note, online pre-book visiting is for the Royal Free London neurological rehabilitation centre at Edgware Hospital only and not for any other wards at Edgware 

Chaplains and faith/religious leaders

One of the trust’s chaplains, as a member of staff, can visit a patient on a ward.  If there is a request for a patient’s own recognised religious or faith leader to attend as a second visitor, this can be facilitated providing they comply with the above process (lateral flow test, PPE, limit their visit to 1 hour).  The religious or faith leader attending should also let our chaplaincy team know they will be attending. They can do this by calling 020 7830 2742.

General advice for patients and visitors

Please remember that if you, or someone you live in the same house as, experiences coronavirus symptoms – a new, continuous cough, a high temperature and/or loss of smell or taste – please do not visit the hospital. Self-isolate and visit NHS 111 online for further advice.

All patients and visitors to our hospitals will need to wear a face mask and are asked to wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water as soon as they enter the hospital and when they leave. Frequent handwashing is effective at reducing the spread of infection.

You may bring someone with you if you are attending an out-patient appointment in our hospitals. Please do not arrive more than 10 minutes prior to your appointment time to minimise overcrowding in our waiting areas.

Thank you for your co-operation and help in respecting these changes.