Visiting and communication

COVID-19 and our visiting policy

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently unable to allow visiting for families on the ICU, except in some very specific circumstances. Visits need to be agreed in advance with the nurse in charge. Read more about our guidance for all visitors.

You must not visit if you have the virus or have symptoms of it, or are self-isolating as a contact. 
If a visit is possible, before entering the ICU, you must:

  • have a temperature check
  • wear a mask and PPE as instructed at all times

If the patient you are visiting has coronavirus, you must self-isolate for 10 days after a visit.

We will do our best to support you and keep you safe during your visit. However, please be aware that we cannot guarantee that PPE will protect you, as you will not have been formally fitted for this. 

Visiting and communication at the Royal Free Hospital

Visiting the ICU for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. A member of the team will be with you to answer questions and guide you through your first visit. It may be helpful, especially for children, to watch our videos that give an idea of what to expect in the unit.
Once your visit has been approved, please go to the lower ground floor security desk on the agreed day and time. You will need to provide your name and the details of the member of staff at the Royal Free Hospital who agreed the visit for you. The staff will request a member of the ICU team to meet you and accompany you to the ICU.

Telephone calls

Hearing your voice can be a helpful and calming experience for the patient. Even if they are not awake a familiar voice will help them. We can put the phone on loudspeaker near to them so that you can speak to them.

There is a telephone at each bedspace in the unit. Use this telephone number to call the nurse at the bedside for an update or to speak to the patient directly. If the phone is not answered, please call again later, as the nurse may be busy. Please try to avoid phoning between 7.45 -  8.15am and 7.45 - 8.15pm when nurses are doing their handover to staff on the next shift.

Please nominate one person, ideally a family member, as the main point of contact to receive calls from and make calls to the hospital. This person can share information with other family members and friends and gives us a clear line of communication. 

Royal Free Hospital ICU telephone numbers
If the patient is on the fourth floor, the extension number to reach them will be 240, followed by the bed space number, which must be two digits. For example, for bed 1, dial extension 24001; for bed13, dial 24013.

If the patient is on third floor, we will give you the phone number to use to get in touch. 

Video calls

It is also possible to set up video calls. Please speak to the bedside nurse to arrange this. You will be asked to provide an email address so we can send an invitation request. This email will include instructions on how to set up an account and download the app. Please inform us if you need help with the password rules and using the app. 

This video on setting up an account might be helpful.

Communication with the ICU team

You can expect to be updated by a member of the team within four to six hours of the patient’s admission. Updates will be every day during the first 48 hours of admission and after this, on two dedicated days a week, to be arranged at a mutually convenient time between you and the team. 

If the patient has been with us for a long time, our therapies team will update you every week on their progress. 

If the patient is unstable or their situation changes dramatically we will contact you more frequently.

It can be really helpful to prepare a list of questions before your telephone call, but we are very aware that this can be an overwhelming time and any uncertainty is understandable. Please know, we are always happy to talk to you and if we are very busy, we will arrange a time when we can talk freely.
If you have any concerns, please let us know so that we can make improvements. 

Visiting and communication at Barnet Hospital

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, family visits to ICU are currently guided by the trust’s visiting policy.

Relatives are only allowed to visit their loved ones under exceptional circumstances. If a visit is possible, a maximum of two relatives are permitted in ICU for 30 minutes each, and you will need to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) if entering a COVID area.

There is a patient liaison team phone line at Barnet Hospital, staffed every day by a senior nurse who will give updates on patients to their relatives.

Call: 020 8216 4050. The line is open 8am to 8pm.

Outside these hours, we will contact relatives if there are any changes in the condition of the patient.

We encourage video calls between patients and relatives, every day if possible. These are organised by the patient liaison nurse and the nurse looking after the patient.

A doctor will usually call relatives every two to four days, unless there are any urgent updates.

Barnet Hospital ICU telephone numbers:

  • ICU North: 020 8216 5298
  • ICU South: 020 8216 4120