Call for national roll out of Covid-19 rehabilitation programme

Calls have been made for the first Covid-19 rehabilitation programme of its kind in Wales to be rolled out across the country. 

Based at the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome of Wales in Newport, the groundbreaking programme helps those who fell critically ill with coronavirus to recover physically and mentally.

It targets patients who were ventilated in an intensive care or respiratory high dependency unit at the Royal Gwent Hospital or Abergavenny’s Nevill Hall.

Forty patients from around Gwent are taking part in the eight-week programme, benefitting from a range of specialist services including respiratory, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, dietetics, psychology and the National Exercise Referral Team.

Monmouth MP David Davies and South Wales East MS Laura Anne Jones visited on Thursday (6 August) to meet some of the patients undergoing rehabilitation.

They also spoke at length with members of the Royal Gwent’s respiratory team, which set up the programme, to hear how dynamic multidisciplinary team-working across a number of specialities is allowing the best recovery possible.

Mr Davies said: “Intensive care patients are known to lose a significant amount of weight, muscle mass and function for many reasons during a long stay in hospital, which can have a huge impact on their quality of life.

“A third of patients who go on a ventilator sadly pass away, while two thirds are left with mental and physical problems which, in some cases, can take months of recovery.

“The respiratory team identified the need for ventilated patients to have dedicated rehab and this is a fantastic scheme making a real difference to people who suffered very badly after contracting coronavirus.

“One patient I talked to told me he struggled to get out of a chair a few weeks ago and is now able to undertake a brisk walk. Crucially, the support provided is driven and led by each patient. The programme is therefore tailored to individual needs with the aim of getting them back to where they want to be, both mentally and physically.”

Requests from patients and families seeking advice on how best to support distinct and specialist needs after discharge were also a key factor in setting up the programme.

Dr Martha Scott, clinical director for respiratory services at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, has been instrumental in its development alongside lead respiratory clinician Dr Sara Fairbairn.

The programme runs twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with two 90-minute sessions a day. Patients attend once a week in a group of 10.

Miss Jones MS said she would be pressing First Minister Mark Drakeford and the Welsh Government to roll-out the bespoke post Covd-19 programme across Wales.

“The doctors, nurses and other NHS staff involved in delivering this vital new service cannot be praised highly enough,” she added.

“What the team is doing at the velodrome is amazing. It was a privilege to visit and the positivity was second to none. The patients we spoke to have all had a critical illness and it has been a real journey for them on the road back to full health.

“I very much hope the Welsh Government looks at what has been achieved here in Gwent and offers support to other local health boards so similar programmes can be set up to help with patients’ rehabilitation.”