Our emergency department at the Royal Free Hospital (also known as A&E) is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for seriously ill patients with critical or life-threatening emergencies. This is either an accident or medical/surgical emergencies.

If you have an urgent but non-life-threatening issue, contact NHS 111 before arriving at our hospital. This way, you will receive guidance on the most suitable care location, as the emergency department may not always be the most appropriate choice.

In cases of life-threatening emergencies, dial 999 or attend the emergency department.

We see patients of all ages and we have a dedicated paediatric emergency department co-located with the adult department. The department has a large facility, with a resuscitation room, major illness area, walk-in assessment area and same day emergency care clinics.

For our Barnet Hospital emergency department page, click here.

The emergency department, urgent treatment centre and same day emergency care areas allow visiting.

Where possible, we will accommodate the wishes of patients to have their family/friends visiting in our clinical areas.

There may be occasions where it is not possible to accommodate additional visitors due to capacity restrictions, to prevent overcrowding. 

Family/friends may be asked to leave temporarily – this is done to protect everyone’s privacy and give us capacity to accommodate other patients, particularly in our waiting areas.

Adult patients

Two visitors are permitted for adult patients. Additional visitors are allowed at the discretion of the nurse and doctor in charge of the department.

Child patients

Children are allowed one or both parents/carers. Parents are expected to take siblings out of the clinical areas where more than one adult is present.

Visiting is at the discretion of the nurse and doctor in charge of the department. Circumstances can change suddenly at busy times.

Our emergency department operates on a priority system to ensure the most critically ill individuals receive immediate attention. This helps us allocate resources where they are needed most urgently. 

The department has access to several acute assessment clinics and specialty services, including access to GPs.

You may be directed to any of the following clinical areas for further assessment:

  • same day emergency care unit (SDEC) 
  • urgent treatment centre (UTC) 
  • surgical assessment unit (SAU) 
  • adult assessment unit (AAU)
  • emergency gynae unit (EGU)
  • ophthalmology eye clinic
  • GP next day appointment within the UTC

All patients under the age of 18 years are seen in the paediatric emergency department (A&E). Patients 18 or older will be seen in the adult emergency department.

We have designed the departments and their equipment especially for children. This helps reduce a child’s anxiety in an emergency. 

We are equipped to handle any child or adolescent medical emergency, including critical emergencies.

If you have been seen by your GP and have been sent to the emergency department for a specialty consultation, you will be seen by that specialist either within the department or moved to their emergency clinic or assessment area. 

Your GP is required to send you with the following information via a referral letter, having already spoken to the speciality doctor. It should contain:

  • referral date
  • patient’s personal details: full name, date of birth, full address including postcode, home, and telephone number
  • reason for referral
  • patient medical details: relevant medical details, such as current and past medical history, medications, blood results
  • GP/referring doctor’s details: including full name and address and contact details

Patients who have been seen by their GP but not referred will be seen by the emergency department.

On arrival to the emergency department, first register at reception. You are booked in by reception staff who will ask you for a few details including your personal information, GP details and your presenting complaint or condition.

Following registration, you are assessed by an experienced nurse or doctor. This is to assess your condition before ‘streaming’ you to the appropriate area of the department. 

At this point, you may also be discharged with advice and/or medication and treatment if required. This initial assessment should only take five minutes. 

Following the assessment, we will direct you to the most appropriate area of the department to commence treatment, or to wait for a formal full assessment. 

In the emergency department, we have a team of medical staff, led by emergency medicine consultants including emergency practitioners, general practitioners, and junior doctors. 

Some patients may have blood tests and X-rays carried out prior to seeing a doctor or emergency practitioner, requested by nursing staff. These tests are dependent on the nature of the presenting complaint.

The department has a 24-hour mental health liaison team consisting of psychiatrists and senior mental health liaison nurses. They are available for assessment of patients having an emergency mental health crisis.

Waiting times to be seen vary and depend upon the severity of illness/injury and the number of patients present at any one time. Patients are prioritised according to clinical need, with the most serious illnesses or injury being seen first.

All patients over the age of 16 who visit our emergency departments at either the Royal Free Hospital or Barnet Hospital and require a blood test, will also be tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C. 

This is in line with guidance from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and NHS England. It is part of the government’s commitment to reducing HIV transmission to zero by 2030.

If you do not wish to be screened for these conditions when you attend one of our emergency departments, please let a member of staff know. This will not affect the care you receive from us.

It is important you register. Please give us correct addresses and telephone numbers, including next of kin details, in case we need to contact you with results or appointments after your visit.

We will send your GP a letter with details of your visit. If you need to attend the fracture clinic, our reception staff will book you an appointment. Please make sure you have got an appointment letter before you leave the department.

If we need to see you at any other clinic, you will be contacted in due course to arrange this. We are unable to provide transport home for most patients.