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Information for families

Being a critical care is often a confusing and frightening experience for patients and families. We hope that the information here will help support and prepare you and your family.

Your relative or friend may be admitted to critical care because their body cannot work normally. If they do not get special help, they may have serious long-term effects to their health or they may die.

Sometimes patients may have to be moved to an ICU at a different hospital. This could be because the patient needs specialist care that is not available locally, beds are needed for new patients who are more seriously ill or because there aren’t enough beds. This can be very upsetting for you and you may have to travel further to visit, however, patients are only moved to a different hospital when it is absolutely necessary.

Information for children Visiting in Critical Care

  • Admission to the unit

    When a patient is first admitted to the unit, it is normal for you to feel helpless, and desperate to know everything you can about their chances of recovery. It is not unusual for their condition to fluctuate from hour to hour and day to day.

    Patients need time to let their body rest and start to recover. Sometimes they will be given strong pain-killing drugs or sedatives to help the healing process begin.

    If you have questions about what is being done, ask the staff in the unit will be happy to explain what they are doing and they will be able to update you as time goes on.

  • Looking after yourself

    You need to give yourself a break and this will also give the patient time to rest. The patient will be very well cared for and the staff will contact you straight away if they need to or if there is any change in their condition.

    You may not feel like eating and you may have difficulty sleeping, but do take time to eat regularly and rest when you can. If you become tired and ill, you won’t be able to care very well for the patient.

    Please ask the nursing staff about contacting the unit by phone, hospital parking and overnight accommodation if it’s needed.


Many patients in ICU take part in research studies during their stay. You can find out more about the research done and participation on our Research in Critical Care page.