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Intensive Care Units and Medical Negligence

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Intensive Care Units (ICU), sometimes known as critical care units or intensive therapy units are special wards in hospitals which are dedicated to treating patients that are extremely ill and need specialist care. The staff on these units undergo specific training to assist in treating these patients and are also trained in how to handle to specialist equipment on these wards.

ICU wards are usually used to treat patients who are suffering from a life threatening illness/injury and need consistent close monitoring with specialist equipment. Generally, patients in ICU will be allocated a nurse who tends to them only, as they need continuous monitoring and are usually connected to monitors. The equipment in ICU are different to most wards and these are used to help a patient by monitoring their symptoms and general health until their bodies are able to respond and manage the way that they should.

The equipment that can be used include but are not limited to ventilators, feeding tubes, catheters and can therefore be uncomfortable. Patients are therefore usually receiving pain killers of some sort, to assist.

Admissions to ICU can be planned, i.e after surgery or can be by emergency. In any event, Consultants have to make a decision as to whether a patient would benefit from ICU care.

Levels to establish whether ICU admission is required

To establish whether a patient would benefit from being treated on an ICU ward, hospitals consider the below 4 levels, which are clinically considered when making a decision:

  • Level 0 – normal acute ward care
  • Level 1 – patient at risk of their condition deteriorating but can be monitored on acute ward care, with additional advice and support from the critical care team
  • Level 2 – patients requiring more detailed observation or intervention
  • Level 3 – patients requiring advanced respiratory support alone, or basic respiratory support together with support of at least two organ system

Essentially, the higher the level, the more inclined a hospital will be in admitting a patient to ICU. The policies which need to be followed on ICU wards differ to those of a general ward. The Guidelines for the Provision of Intensive Care Services sets out the guidelines in respect of ICU admissions and care.

Follow Up

Intensive care is offered to patients in ICU until they are strong enough to move to another ward, and their level, as above, decreases. Moving to a general ward following an ICU admission is usually key to being discharged.

A patient is very rarely discharged from ICU until there is a recovery plan in place for them.

Multidisciplinary team (MDT) assessments are usually key in handling patients needs and this helps to establish the patient’s route to recovery. A patient’s recovery does however begin in ICU and continues onto a general ward until discharge.

Medical negligence claims in respect of intensive care treatments may include but are not limited to:

  • Substandard care and/or management on intensive care units
  • Medication administration errors
  • Failure to refer a patient for intensive care treatments

A number of patients do however find it difficult to cope with the trauma and intensity of being in ICU, sometimes when it could have been avoided. Our specialist medical negligence team has experience in dealing with claims resulting in ICU admissions.

For more information or to discuss your case email us or call 0800 088 6004.

Gemma Pabari


Gemma Pabari


Gemma is a Solicitor within the Medical Negligence Team. Gemma has experience in advising on a range of Medical Negligence claims, to include delays in diagnosing and treating Cauda Equina Syndrome, representing clients on matters arising from complications with pregnancy.