Information for visitors to critical care

Please don’t sit at home worrying, ring us any time, day or night. We ask where possible that one designated family member rings the unit for an update and then relays this information to other family and friends.

This will allow us to continue caring for your loved one and, also avoid any confusion or misunderstanding with multiple phone calls from different people. Please be aware that we are only permitted to give basic updates due to confidentiality. We will give more relevant information to next of kin when they visit.

Within Critical Care there are two rooms in the entrance corridor, the small second room is used for discussions so we ask that you use the larger waiting room. The larger waiting room has a cold drinks and sweets machines. In the corridor is a hot drinks machine, help yourself and if supplies are low please tell one of the nurses or the housekeeper. We ask that you leave the drinks trolley and waiting rooms as you would like to find them. The nearest public toilet is out of the unit, turn right approximately 100 metres along on the left.

All visitors are requested to:

  • Inform staff of their arrival by ringing the doorbell
  • Leave outdoor coats in the waiting rooms or on the hooks at the unit doors
  • Please take any valuables with you
  • Use the hand gel before entering the unit and again at the bed space
  • Wear an apron at the bedside
  • Not sit or lie on the patient’s bed
  • Keep babies and infants under control and not to allow them to crawl on the floor or beds
  • Remove your apron before leaving the bedside and place in rubbish bin
  • Gel or wash your hands before leaving the unit.

What to expect when you visit

We appreciate this is a very worrying time for you and will do all we can to keep you updated with relevant treatment plans and any changes. When a patient is first admitted it can take one to two hours to get them stabilised and all the necessary drugs and equipment up and running. We will aim to allow you see your loved one as soon as they are stable, please bear with us.

Please see each unit for visiting times Conquest Critical Care UnitEastbourne Intensive Care Unit. We aim to do procedures before or after you visit but this is not always possible. We will endeavour to allow you in to visit as soon as possible.

Children are allowed to visit a close relative if their parents think this will be beneficial for the child and patient. Some children will be unfazed by seeing a loved one critically ill with lots of invasive lines, surrounded by noisy, flashing equipment whilst others may find this upsetting. Please speak to the Nurse in Charge prior to visiting about how to manage this. If children are visiting please ensure they are closely supervised and be mindful of the other critically ill patients and their visitors.

It can be quite frightening visiting someone in Intensive Care, the nurse looking after your relative will explain what to expect and aim to allay your fears. All patients are connected to a monitor that gives us a lot of vital information including heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels. They may be connected to a ventilator or facemask to help them breath and therefore not able to talk to you. We always advise that although the patient may be ‘sleeping’ they may be able to hear so gentle reassurance from you is essential.

At times you may hear or see flashing alarms do not be perturbed this is quite normal and the nurses are always monitoring these even if they are not at the bedside. If you are concerned just let one of the nurses or doctors know. The bedside nurse will explain what the equipment is for if you wish. However, don’t worry about the numbers concentrate on your relative is our best advise.

Orientation boards

A high proportion of patients who have been critically ill will experience delirium and may experience frightening dreams and hallucinations and not understand where they are or what has happened to them. One way we try to help orientate our patients is by using one of the orientation boards. The nurse will write the day, date, weather and who is looking after them that day.

You can write a message for your loved one or attach cards or photo’s: this helps to bring the patient back to reality.

Please see the other webpages on our site for information about Patient Diaries, ICU Steps groups and our Follow Up Clinic and Gym. These are evidence based services that are proven to help patient’s and relatives after critical illness and rely on your support for their continuation.

Communicating with a patient who is on a ventilator or has a tracheostomy can be difficult and very frustrating for the patient and visitors. Some people are good at lip reading or ‘playing charades’ and others not so good. Patients are often too weak to hold a pen and write in a legible way. We have a variety of communication aids/alphabet boards and a few donated computer tablets for patient use, please speak to the nurse if you would like to borrow one. Some patients may find their own ipad or tablet a useful means of communication, typing words or pointing at pictures. We will take good care of it but please be aware the Trust will not accept liability for loss or breakage.

What to do if you are unhappy with an aspect of care

If you have concerns about any aspect of care please speak to the bedside nurse or sister in charge. If you wish to make a complaint about care received on the unit or prior to admission please speak to the unit matron or lead nurse first. If possible we would like to rectify the problem and get you the answers to your questions sooner rather than later.

However, if you think a more formal complaint is the only option our Patient Advice and Liaison (PALS) team can be contacted and will offer you advice on how best to proceed.

We provide this service at

Conquest Hospital

The Ridge, St Leonards-on-Sea
East Sussex, TN37 7RD
0300 131 4500

Eastbourne District General Hospital

Kings Drive, Eastbourne
East Sussex, BN21 2UD
0300 131 4500