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14 November 2010, 07:54 | Updated: 14 November 2010, 07:57
People who have been in intensive care after illness or accidents have now got a better chance of getting back to work and their previous life.
A new therapy programme designed to give former intensive care patients the best possible chance of returning to work and pursuing their previous interests has been introduced at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.
Called FIT (Following Intensive Therapy), the programme runs over six weeks and involves health professionals giving advice and education alongside a fitness regime specially tailored to each person.
The programme has been introduced by critical care nurse Janet Thomas and Helen Stewart, clinical specialist physiotherapist, after they recognised a need for extra support for patients recovering from a stay in the intensive care unit (ICU). It is thought to be the only specialist rehabilitation programme for former ICU patients available within the region.
"Patients who have spent several weeks in ICU can often face major disabilities once they are discharged," said Carin Swanevelder, consultant intensivist and clinical lead for the project.
"But because the needs of these patients are fairly complex and diverse, there hasn't traditionally been huge amounts of support or rehabilitation available for them. We are pleased to be able to say that we are reversing that trend at West Suffolk with our specialist rehabilitation clinics and the FIT club.
"Each week, former ICU patients will spend an hour taking part in specially tailored exercise, which we build up gradually so that returning to their previous interests, hobbies and work becomes much more likely. We also offer education, and spend the remaining time looking in more detail at the physical and emotional support which is available to both the patients and their families or carers.
"You can see an improvement as soon as the patients start attending the sessions, and the feedback we have had so far has been excellent. We are delighted at this difference which this project is already making and hope to continue developing the programme in the future."
As part of the overall package of care available, ICU also hosts an annual open evening to give former patients the chance to share their experiences and discuss their feelings with each other and the doctors and nurses who cared for them.