Visiting and communication on the ICU

Visiting an intensive care unit (ICU) for the first time can be a frightening experience. We’ll be with you every step of the way, but it may be helpful to watch our videos to have a sense of what it might look like. This might be especially helpful for children or anyone who hasn’t been inside a hospital before.

All our ICU information videos are available to watch here.

COVID-19 and our visitors policy

Due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, we’re only able to allow visitors in some specific circumstances. Visits need to be agreed in advance by the nurse in charge. You can read more about this on our 'information for visitors and communication' page.

If a visit is possible, prior to entering the ICU you must have a temperature check, wear a mask and any necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) as instructed at all times.

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 be formally fitted for this, and this visit is done at your own risk.

You can find out more about how we care for patients with COVID-19 in ICU and changes to our visitors policy in our video here:

Visiting the Royal Free Hospital ICU during the pandemic

If your visit has been approved, please go to the lower ground floor security desk at the Royal Free Hospital on the day agreed day/time of your visit. You will need to provide your name and details of who agreed the visit. The security will inform a member of senior nursing staff who will arrange for a member of staff to meet you and bring you up to the ICU.

Routine communications advice 

Royal Free Hospital ICU

Telephone calls

Even if your relative is not awake, hearing your voice can be a helpful and calming experience and if you want to say hello to them we can easily put the phone near them on loudspeaker.

There is a telephone at each bedspace. You can use this number to call the nurse by the bedside for an update or to speak to your loved one. It would be best to avoid 7.45-8.15 am and 7.45-8.15pm as this is nursing handover time. If the phone is unanswered please call again later as the nurse may be busy

It is really helpful when a patient has lots of family and friends who want to check in with them for one person to be nominated to be the main point of contact. Usually this person would be the patient's next of kin. We would ask that this person then share information to all others who need to know so that we can keep a clear line of communication.

If your relative is on the 4th floor, the extension number for it will be 240+the bedspace number eg for bed 1 it is 24001 or for 13 it is 24013; if a patient is  on the second floor we will let you know the best number with which to get in touch.

Sometimes, we move patients to different bedspaces, for instance a patient moving out of a side room. We will inform you as soon we are able if this occurs and we can give you a new bedside telephone number.

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 to facilitate these call. Once your email contact has been added to the patient’s profile by staff, you should receive an invite request to this email address. This email will include instructions on how to set up an account and download the app. Please inform us if you require further help meeting the password rules and using the app.

Communication with the Royal Free Hospital ICU team

Our standard for communication is that you can expect to be updated by a member of the team within 4-6 hours of admission, daily for first 48 hours of admission and then two dedicated days a week organised at a mutually convenient time between yourself and the team. If your relative has been with us for a long time you can also expect a weekly update from our therapies team on their progress. If your relative is unstable or their situation has changed dramatically we would aim to contact you more frequently. If these standards are not being met, please let us know so that we can help. It can be really helpful to have a list of questions ready for your telephone call if you know what you would like to ask. However, we know that this can be a very overwhelming time and it is completely okay to not be sure what to ask, just know we’ll always be happy to talk or arrange a different time if we are busy.