Critical care transfers

What is a critical care transfer?

This is the movement of very sick patients from one critical care area to another.

Why do we transfer patients?

Reasons for transferring sick patients can include:

  • Tests or investigations
  • Moving to a higher level of care
  • Moving to specialist care, this would include for cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, burns, trauma, spinal, liver, renal or paediatric care.
  • Moving to a lower level of care
  • Returning to your nearest hospital to home
  • Allowing access to critical care for others

Your medical and nursing team will be able to explain the reasons for your/ your loved ones transfer.  

What can you expect?

You/ your loved one will transferred by a team of staff who are familiar with the care of critically patients and the needs during transfer.

Depending upon the reason for the transfer, this will decide the speed at which it needs to be done.


The hospital staff will arrange an ambulance if required. Due to space on the ambulance it is not possible for relatives or friends to travel in the ambulance.

Please speak with your doctors or nurses regarding travelling to the new hospital.


Once a decision has been made about the transfer you will be informed by the hospital staff.  They will tell you about the following:

  • Where you/you loved one is going
  • Why they are going
  • When the transfer will happen 
  • What you need to do
  • Contact details of where you/your loved is going  

Escorting staff and equipment

Where possible the staff transferring you /your loved one will be the staff that are currently looking after you.  However on occasion, you/ your loved one may have a different team who are familiar with the care of critically patients and the needs during transfer. 

The equipment used during transfer to support you/your loved one is specifically designed for transferring critically ill patients.  Staff are familiar with the equipment and you/ your loved one will be put on the transfer equipment for a period of time before leaving to ensure that everything is stable. 

Travelling to the new hospital or critical care area

If travelling by ambulance, loved ones and friends should make their own way to the new location; they will not be able to follow the ambulance.

In the event of an emergency it may be required for a diversion to an alternative destination. This will be to maintain the safety of the patient, and you will be notified as soon as practically possible.

On arrival

It will take time to handover your/ loved ones care and to transfer to the receiving hospitals equipment. Depending on the reason for the transfer there may also be a period of time you/ loved one are undergoing tests, investigations or treatment. The staff will give you information about how long this may take.


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