Critical care at University Hospital Lewisham

The unit cares for patients whose conditions are life threatening and need constant, close monitoring and support from equipment and medication to keep body functions working normally.


 3rd Floor Riverside Building (Orange Zone), University Hospital Lewisham.

Contact details

T: 020 8333 3000

High Dependancy Unit (HDU) – ext 48737 and 43675

Intensive Care Unit (ICU) – ext 43686, 48635 and 26117

What conditions does the service treat?

Patients with critical illness suffer from failure of one or more of their systems such as the heart, lung or kidneys. Heart attack, stroke, poisoning, pneumonia, surgical complications, major trauma as a result of road traffic accidents, a fall, burns, an industrial accident or violence are all examples of critical illnesses. Patients recovering from a major operation are also admitted to intensive care units.

There are many reasons a person may need care in an ICU and there are some common conditions that either bring a patient to the ICU or develop while the patient is in the unit.

Shock can occur when the organs of the body do not get enough oxygen and blood flow for them to function normally.

Respiratory failure occurs when the lungs do not work effectively. Respiratory failure can be caused by a variety of conditions such as heart failure, pneumonia and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). When it is severe it can be called "acute lung injury" or most severe of all ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome).

Infections are a common cause of ICU admission and can develop for many reasons while a patient is in the ICU. Usually the illness that has brought the patient to the ICU has weakened them and lessened their ability to fight off infections.

An infection, as well as age and pre-existing medical conditions affecting the patient, may put them at risk of uncontrolled inflammation, which is called sepsis.

Overwhelming infection that causes at least one acute organ dysfunction is called severe sepsis. This occurs when the inflammatory response begins to affect the basic functions of the body (renal kidney failure and acute respiratory failure, to name two), and the patient becomes very sick.

What services are available?

Treatment that a patient may receive on the ICU can involve the use of specialist equipment that is designed to aid the patient’s recovery. This can include:

  • mechanical ventilator to assist breathing through an endotracheal tube or a tracheotomy opening
  • Dialysis equipment for renal problems
  • Equipment for the constant monitoring of bodily functions,
  • The use of Intravenous lines, feeding tubes, nasogastric tubes, suction pumps, drains and catheters, and a wide array of drugs to treat the main condition e.g. to induce sedation, reduce pain, and prevent secondary infections.

Useful information

Visiting times

Please see our visiting restrictions page for up to date information about restrictions in place due to Covid-19.

Visiting times are 10am to 12 noon and 4pm to 8pm. Visiting is strictly limited to two visitors at the bedside at any one time. However, in all cases, the number of visitors and length of time they stay will be at the discretion of the nursing staff, depending on the patient’s condition.

Patients in intensive care and high dependency units often need a lot of rest and so we suggest that you visit for short periods only, as receiving visitors can be very tiring for the patients. You may visit at the designated times, although you may be required to wait as many treatments and investigations, such as physiotherapy, attending to hygiene needs and X-rays, are done during the course of the day.

Car parking

Parking space in the hospital grounds is extremely limited and is a pay on exit basis. 

Accommodation for relatives

Close relatives of critically ill patients may be able to obtain overnight accommodation at the hospital, which will be free of charge. There are only two rooms available. Visitors who are staying will be able to eat in the hospital restaurant. Nursing staff will be able to give details of these facilities if necessary.

Infection control

On entering the ICU, we ask that all visitors wash their hands, put on a plastic apron and use the alcohol gel at the unit entrance.

This is to help keep the ICU clean and to help prevent the spread of infection to other areas of the hospital. It protects the ICU patients, you and other contacts.