'More support needed' for patients after intensive care

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Media captionDr Stephen Brett, who led the study: "A lot of this is around better communication, organising of care"

Many intensive care patients suffer pain up to a year after leaving hospital, a study has suggested.

The research also found a quarter of the patients were dependent on help with washing and dressing, months after their discharge.

Almost 300 intensive care patients answered questions for the study, published in the journal Critical Care.

The Department of Health said it was "crucial" patients got the support they needed when they left hospital.

Researchers from Imperial College London and Oxford University received questionnaires from 293 patients who had spent at least two days in intensive care at one of 22 hospitals around the UK.

Half were teaching hospitals - the remainder were district general hospitals.

Almost three-quarters of them (73%) reported having moderate or severe pain a year after discharge, while 44% were significantly anxious or depressed.

Two-thirds still had problems walking, six months after leaving hospital.

Much of the care was provided by family members.

The number of patients who said a job was their main source of income went from 19% before hospital admission to 11%.

And a third of all patients said there had been a negative impact on their family income six months after leaving hospital, with this figure only declining slightly at 12 months after discharge.

Physically weak

Barry Williams, a member of the Intensive Care Society's patient liaison committee and a former NHS chief executive, said: "There is often little or no support for these people once discharged from hospital.

"The Departments of Health and Work and Pensions should work with us to produce a policy which would deal with these problems."

Mr Williams got involved in the work after his wife, Kathy, spent 49 days in intensive care. She made a successful recovery.

He said: "Patients are physically weak after intensive care because of the length of time they have spent immobilised and sedated.

"They and their families need practical, short-term help - such as disabled parking badges or adaptations in the house - but this sort of support often isn't available until you've been ill or immobile for a year."

The researchers did not find any evidence that relationships broke down or people needed to move house.

However, they wrote in the paper: "Mortgage protection policies often protect against repossession for an initial 12-month period.

"And many home loan organisations allow repayment flexibility for a prolonged period after illness.

"The UK Building Society Association felt that one-year follow-up was too short a period to identify repossessions."

The study found a small number of patients had seen a health professional to talk about emotional problems - but more patients would have liked this support.

It is hoped that a bigger study can be carried out in the future.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Leaving hospital can be a difficult time for patients and their families and sometimes, extra help is needed, over and above medical treatment to help ease people back into their usual way of life.

"It is absolutely crucial that the NHS and local authorities work together to help people leave hospital when they are ready and that patients get to go home with the support they and their families need."

He added that £859m had been "set aside" to encourage the NHS and social care to "develop new services that help people maintain their independence".

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