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Critical Care Unit

This page was last updated: September 2nd, 2022

The Critical Care Unit at Royal Cornwall Hospital is a specially staffed and equipped ward to closely monitor and treat patients with life-threatening conditions or who need specialist treatment because one or more of their body systems, such as their heart, lung or kidneys, are not working properly.
The unit can accommodate up to 15 severely ill patients. For more information about how the unit works and the specialist care we provide, please visit the Critical Care service overview page.

Important Visiting RestrictionsDue to the Covid pandemic, restrictions have been made to the usual visiting times and rules listed below. Please view our Covid Visiting restrictions.

Visiting the Critical Care Unit

See our ‘Visiting‘ section for the most recent guidance on visiting.

Top Tips

  • Please introduce yourself and tell us who you are visiting
  • Do not disturb nurses during medicine rounds
  • When asked to leave a bay or room, please respect our request

How to find the critical care unit

The Critical Care Unit is on the second floor of the Trelawny Wing at Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske in Truro. If you enter from the Trelawny main entrance (near the café and WH Smith shop), you’ll need to take the lift or the stairs up to the second floor.

Find out more about coming to the Royal Cornwall Hospital

Key information before you visit

To allow staff to devote more time to patient care, it is helpful to have one or two people as main contacts who can telephone the unit for updates, and pass this information to the rest of the family or friends.

Please also bear in mind that in the early days, visiting may be restricted to close family and friends only, and to certain times of the day.

We try to be flexible to meet each patient’s needs, so please speak to the nurse about when is best to visit. Generally we recommended that you visit between 2pm and 8pm as the unit tends to be less busy in the afternoon.

If the patient’s stay in critical care was unplanned, please read this section on what to bring in for them

What happens when a patient is admitted to critical care

It can take around one to two hours to check patients and settle them into the unit. We often give patients sedation (medicine to make them sleep) to make sure they are comfortable while on the ventilator or getting other treatment.

When you arrive

Critical Care can be a busy environment, with lots of activity and noise that can be frightening and distressing for visitors. The doctors and nurses will explain your relative’s condition, plan of treatment and the equipment. If you forget any of the information you have been given, please ask, the staff are always happy to give further explanations and information.

Advanced directives (living wills)

If the patient has made an advance directive (sometimes known as a ‘living will’) please tell a member of as soon as possible so that we can respect their wishes.

What to expect

All patients have monitoring leads and equipment put on them when they arrive at the unit so that staff can closely watch their heart rhythm, blood pressure and oxygen levels.

The person you care about is likely to look very different to how they would normally look and may have:

  • lots of equipment attached to him/her
  • a breathing tube in his/her mouth which is attached to a ventilator (a ‘breathing machine’)
  • a swollen face and/or limbs
  • been sedated and be sleepy or drowsy.

Despite the sedation, many patients respond to reassurance, such as a familiar voice or hand holding. The bedside nurse will make sure that you are able to be with the patient without disturbing any of the monitoring equipment and can also tell you about the equipment and why it is needed.

Help to reduce infection

Critically ill patients have a high risk of getting an infection. To help reduce this risk, please clean your hands when you enter and leave the unit, by using the spray foam, alcohol gel or washing your hands.

If you are ill, please do not visit

Some patients are at higher risk of infection than others or have an infection that needs isolating. These isolation rooms are restricted to close family and friends and you’ll be asked to take extra precautions in these rooms, such as wearing a mask, wearing a plastic apron and washing your hands using soap and water.

Critical care staff wear raspberry coloured uniforms (‘scrubs’), aprons and gloves and must always clean their hands before and after caring for patients.

Find out more about how we work to prevent the spread of infection.

Support, facilities and accommodation

Due to the severity of our patients’ illness, we don’t have bedside facilities for patients, but we can arrange a TV if required.

We know that having a relative or friend in critical care can be a very stressful experience. It is important to make sure you get enough rest and eat properly so that you do not become unwell yourself.

The visitors’ room has facilities to make hot and cold drinks, please feel free to make yourself a drink. But please do not eat or drink on the unit whilst visiting.

If you wish to stay nearby overnight, it is sometimes possible to book overnight accommodation at the hospital, which costs £35 per person per night and includes breakfast. For more information please speak to the nurse in charge, who will also be able to provide a list of local B&B’s and hotels.

Find out more about the facilities and parking at Royal Cornwall Hospital.

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