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Paediatric intensive care and paediatric high dependency unit

Paediatric Wards

Welcome to PICU/PHDU

Having your child admitted to Intensive Care or the High dependency unit is obviously an extremely anxious time for you and your family.

This information is designed to answer some of the questions you may have about our unit.

The Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and Paediatric High Dependency Unit (PHDU) at Addenbrooke's is a 13 bedded ward caring for sick children who need very close observation from doctors, nurses and other members of the PICU/HDU team.

Many of our patients are admitted directly to the unit from other hospitals as emergencies via transport teams such as PaNDR or CATS . Patients may also be transferred from the Emergency Department or other wards here at Addenbrooke's. Some of our patients have a planned stay with us after an operation.

CUH Directions mobile app

The CUH Directions mobile app is for patients and visitors.

It helps you to find your way around Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie hospitals, making it easier to locate clinics, wards and other facilities on our campus.

CUH Directions – mobile app

Discharge from PICU/HDU

When your child is well enough to leave Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) or the Paediatric High Dependency unit (PHDU) they will either return to a hospital near where you live, or they will be transferred to one of the children’s wards here at Addenbrooke’s.

We appreciate that leaving the unit can be another stressful time for you and may provoke feelings of fear and anxiety. However, it is important for you to know that we only discharge children when they are getting better and this is a positive step in their recovery.

Your child will be cared for by a team or teams of doctors depending on your child’s needs. The teams include junior doctors and a consultant who will head the team. They will monitor your child’s progress and visit daily, although they will not all be available on the wards at all times.

As your child is in the recovery stage, a nurse will not need to be at your child’s bedside at all times. This allows you more of an opportunity to have a more active role in your child’s care.

The ward may be noisier than PICU/PHDU as there may be more children in each room, more visitors and the children are not as sick. There are televisions at each bed space and a family room with tea and coffee facilities. One family member is able to sleep by your child’s bedside.

Frequently asked questions

Below you’ll find answers to some commonly asked questions.

If you don’t find the answer you are looking for, please don't hesitate to contact us.

When are visiting hours?

We have taken a cautious approach to infection prevention and control in order to help protect out vulnerable patients and protect our staff. Please do not visit if you are unwell.

Our visiting policy is updated constantly and there are strict guidelines in place if a child or family member has Covid. The team will ask you questions around this on admission and throughout your stay on the unit. You will be informed of the visiting policy for your child and provided with written up to date information on this.

We will support two resident parents/carers and one child at the visiting at the bedside. When extended family visit we will support only two visitors at one time by the bedside. We kindly ask extended family to leave the unit by 19.30 hours. You may be asked to leave at other times if a child requires certain procedures.

Please respect our rules, they are put in place to help protect everyone.

Current visiting policy

Restricted visiting will be permitted on most wards and areas such as our Emergency Department. Please follow our guidance to find our more information as some areas do still have restrictions.

Read our visiting policy

Can I see my child straight away?

Yes but there may be times when you may be asked to wait in the family room depending on your child’s condition. For example when your child is first admitted to the unit you may be asked to wait allowing the team to settle your child in. Nurses and doctors will keep you fully informed and will keep you waiting no longer than is necessary.

Can siblings visit?

Yes, siblings can visit and we encourage this as it can help with their understanding of the situation.

Our Psychosocial team and bedside nurse will help support siblings during their visits. During times of winter vomiting bugs the Trust does restrict children visiting. If this is the case, you will be informed at the time.

Can I stay overnight with my child?

We provide free parent accommodation within the hospital grounds for use during your stay on PICU/HDU. Acorn house is run through the charity, The sick Children’s Trust, and endeavours to provide a welcoming space for you to sleep, cook your own meals, shower, and have time away from the unit.

It is very important that you have some rest while on PICU/HDU and so we encourage you to use the facilities throughout the day and sleep there overnight. It is not far from the unit and the team can call you as needed. You are not able to sleep at your child’s bed space or in the family room.

Can I touch my child?

Yes, of course. We encourage you to touch your child and become involved in any basic cares that you feel you would like to do. As a team we are passionate about family centred care and you play a very important role in your child’s care. Talking to your child, reading a story and playing familiar songs will also help as well as bringing their favourite teddy or special toy!

We have a dedicated hospital play specialist on PICU/HDU. Play has a special function in the hospital environment, and hospital/registered play specialists lead playful activities and use play as therapeutic tool, when your child is ready. It is also important that your child has some quiet time too though

What facilities are available?

We have a family room available for your use. It contains tea and coffee making facilities, a fridge and a microwave. There are lockers available which contain mobile phone chargers.

There is a water machine on the unit. Toilets are outside the unit. There are newsagents, canteens, cash points, and a bank in the main concourse. A reminder that this is a non-smoking site


You will be able to make use of the visitor’s car parks on site. Please ask a member of staff to stamp your parking ticket which can be taken to customer services and a discounted rate provided.

Park and ride facilities are also available. We also provide maps of the nearest supermarkets.

For more information, please visit our travel and parking pages.

Looking after yourself

You will be encouraged to take regular breaks from the unit for meals as it is important that you remain fit and well during your child’s stay.

Sleep is also important and we encourage you to get some rest overnight so you remain well.

Breastfeeding mothers are offered food from the ward meal trolley. Please ask your nurse about this if you are a breastfeeding mother. We will tell you of the support and advice available to you and how to use the expressing pumps when you are admitted. We can facilitate post birth checks over at The Rosie Hospital.

Support for you

We provide family centred care and supporting you is very important. Please ask the nurses or doctors about any questions or worries you have.

We have a Psychologist, Counsellor Practitioner and Family Liaison nurse here in PICU/HDU working closely with all the team. Please see our psychosocial team leaflet. They work with you and your child to help provide a more positive hospital experience and to support you throughout your child’s PICU/PHDU stay.

There are chaplains of all denominations available and a chapel for your use in the main concourse which is open 24 hours a day.

Please speak to your bedside nurse if you need help to access these facilities.

We will ask for you honest feedback when you leave the unit to help us improve our service to other families.