Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)

The Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) is also known as Seahorse Ward, has 17 beds and is for children and young people who need special care for serious medical or surgical conditions.

We have a small number of cubicles, but most beds are on in the open ward.

Around 900 children a year are treated on PICU.


Paediatric Intensive Care Unit

Level 4, Variety Club Building

Great Ormond Street hospital, Great Ormond Street



If your child has any additional needs, please call in advance to let us know.

PICU Ward telephone number: 020 7829 8808

Who you will meet

PICU is led by a team of consultants (doctors), who specialise in intensive care of children.

Key staff

  • Speciality Lead: Sophie Skellet
  • Matron: Deborah Lees
  • Family Liaison Sisters: Esther Rose, Emily Cantrell and Katie Dettmer
  • Play Specialist: Lizzie Penn

Other staff who work on the ward include doctors, nurse practitioners, ward sisters, nurses, students, health care assistants, ventilator technicians, physiotherapists, dieticians, pharmacists, housekeepers, family liaison nurses, play specialists, psychologists, social workers, chaplains, interpreters and volunteers.

Conditions we treat

PICU treats patients with a variety of different serious medical and surgical conditions that require intensive care support.


You can learn more about our clinical services by visiting:

Ward Information

There are three consultants on duty on PICU each day – two are based on the unit and is responsible for the clinical care of your child and the other is known as the ‘supporting consultant’, who is on the unit from 9am until 4pm and their role is to update all families that day regarding their child’s medical condition. This will happen after the morning ward round and before the evening ward round.

Having a child admitted to PICU is very often a shock for parents, and can be bewildering as everything is unfamiliar.

Please remember that everybody on the unit is here to help you and your child, and you should feel free to ask any questions or query anything you don’t understand or are uncomfortable with.

For security reasons, the doors to PICU are kept locked. Please ring the bell and when asked, state who you are and the name of the child you have come to visit.

All members of staff must wear an identity badge at all times. If someone not wearing an identity badge approaches you or your child at any time, please check with a member of staff. If you are at all worried, please call security on extension 5999.

We do everything we can to protect the privacy and dignity of your child at all times during their stay at GOSH. Your child will be allocated a bed space according to how their physical, psychological and social needs are best met while taking into consideration the needs of other children and young people on the ward at that time.

Please tell us if your child has a preference for being with other children of their own age or gender and we will try to meet this request where possible. Please note that there are some circumstances where requests cannot be met, for instance, in high dependency or intensive care areas. Your child’s safety will be our utmost priority at all times.

Visiting your child at GOSH

We know that having visitors can make things seem more ‘normal’ for our patients. However, we have to have a balance between people visiting and our staff being able to care for our patients.

We encourage parents to visit and stay as long as possible, and you are welcome to visit your child at any time, day or night, although all visitors including parents have to leave the unit during the morning ward round and when emergency procedures are being carried out. Your child’s nurse will arrange a time for you to speak to the doctor after the ward round so that you can discuss your child’s progress. You are welcome to stay for the afternoon and evening ward rounds.

Only three visitors can be at the bed side at a time, one of whom must be a parent.

Brothers and sisters are welcome to visit but must always be supervised by a responsible adult. No other children should visit.

Anyone who has an infection should not visit until they are better. Please do not visit if you have a cold, cough or an upset stomach, or think you have recently been in contact with someone who has. You should wait until you have not had any symptoms for 48 hours before you visit. No visiting sibling or child will be allowed in to the ward if they have or been in contact with chicken pox. If in doubt, please speak to your bedside nurse or the nurse in charge. When you visit, please wash your hands thoroughly before you enter the ward and use the alcohol gel provided at each ward door.

If you have any questions about visiting, please telephone the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (Pals) Office before you visit on 020 7829 7862.


Information for parents

When your child is in intensive care we are able to offer accommodation near the hospital for both parents or carers.

We advise that, where possible, other children are left with relatives or friends at home. If this is not an option, the hospital has two houses as part of the Sick Children’s Trust which have free accommodation subject to very limited availability.

The Parent Support Group is for any parent or carer of a child admitted to PICU/NICU. The group meets once a year and discusses what the unit is doing well, or how present practice might be improved.

There is a Family Lounge with toys and a TV next to NICU, please do not take any hot drinks into the room. Children should always be supervised by an adult. There is also a Parent Lounge for adults only further along the corridor with facilities to make hot drinks and a microwave. There are lockers for parents’ belongings next to the Parent Lounge, please ask the ward administrators or bedside nurse for a key.

Hot drinks or food of any kind are not allowed on PICU. There is a water fountain on the unit.
Parents can buy food and drink in the various catering facilities in the hospital and local area. There is also the hospital shop, which sells refreshments and gifts. Within a 10-minute walk of the hospital there is a shopping centre and various supermarkets.

There are 2 unisex toilets for parents and visitors along the corridor between NICU and PICU.

PICU has a play specialist who can offer support and advice to parents on coping strategies for siblings of all ages.

Brothers and sisters can also use the Activity Centre on the ground floor of the Southwood Building, which has an outdoor area and a dedicated room (the Den) for teenagers

You are a valued member of your child‘s healthcare team and we encourage you to take part in his or her care as much as possible while in hospital.

You can use your mobile phone inside the hospital within designated mobile friendly zones. Using your mobile elsewhere could cause interference with our medical equipment. WIFI is available, please ask the ward administrator for this information.

Spiritual leaders of various denominations are available to offer spiritual and emotional support on PICU.

What can I bring?

Please bring in your child’s toiletries.

You are welcome to bring presents for our patients but please be aware of some restrictions.

  • Latex (stretchy rubber) balloons are not allowed, as some of our patients have life threatening latex allergy. Foil balloons do not cause these problems so you are welcome to bring these.
  • Flowers - water in the vase can develop a bacterium that can cause infection in children, so flowers and plants are not allowed.
  • Everything you bring in for your child should be washable to reduce the risk of infection. This includes soft toys.
  • Hot drinks or food of any kind are not allowed on PICU.
  • When you are visiting, please keep the area around the child’s bed tidy so that our nurses can reach the bed easily and quickly.

Please note that the hospital cannot accept responsibility for any loss of or damage to personal property.


If you are breastfeeding, or need to express milk, you can do so at your baby’s bedside or there is an expressing room close to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.
You are also entitled to £5 of breastfeeding vouchers daily, to be used in the hospital cafeteria or shop. There is a neonatal nurse specialist available during the week who you can discuss any of these issues with.
There is a midwifery clinic available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 2.30pm and 4.00pm. Please take your midwifery notes with you when you attend.

Will you give me information about the patient’s progress?

We will only give this information to the child’s parents, unless they give us permission to tell anyone else.


Important information

GOSH is a smoke-free zone, which means that you cannot smoke anywhere inside hospital property and adjacent areas, such as entrances to hospital buildings.

We will not tolerate any kind of inappropriate or threatening behaviour – verbal, physical or psychological – and we have a policy to ensure that this is dealt with appropriately. We can and will remove people from GOSH in these circumstances.