A critical care unit also sometimes known as an intensive care unit, or an intensive therapy department, is a special ward that is found in most hospitals. It provides specialist treatment and monitoring for people who are in a critically ill or unstable condition. People in critical care units need constant medical support to keep their body functioning. They may not be able to breathe on their own or they may have or be at risk of developing multiple organ failure. Medical equipment takes the place of these functions while the person recovers.
There are several circumstances in which a person may be admitted to critical care. These include after surgery, an accident or a severe illness. Critical care beds are a very expensive and limited resource because they provide:
- specialised monitoring equipment
- constant input from highly trained and experienced medical staff
- constant access to highly trained nurses
Being in a critical care unit can be a daunting experience, both for the person who is in hospital and for their family and friends. The healthcare professionals who work in these units understand this. They are there to help the person who is in critically unwell, as well as offering support to their families.
The level of care or dependency is adjusted to match how unwell the person is and on what treatment is required. Severely unwell persons will require a nurse at their bedside continually (formally known as intensive care), whereas those less unwell may share their nurse with another person (formally known as high dependancy). People spend varying lengths of time in critical care, depending on the nature of their illness and the demands on the unit.
Many private hospitals in the UK have no critical care facilities. However our critical care service can provide full critical care support and has one of the lowest risk adjusted mortality rates in the region. The service can support people as a planned part of their care (ie during the peri-operative period) or as an emergency if the need arises.