COVID-19 patients to benefit from first specialist recovery programme in the UK

Nuffield Health, the UK’s largest healthcare charity, is developing the UK’s first specialist rehabilitation programme to support patients in their recovery after they have received medical treatment for COVID-19.

The programme, which blends together physical therapy and mental health support, is being piloted in NHS trusts across the UK, before it is developed into a national programme.

The first pilot, set to launch in September, with Royal Stoke University Hospital, part of University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, will run for 12 weeks. Patients are currently discharged from hospital with no formal recovery plan, which can result in a longer recovery process, and prolonged side effects. Patients will be referred onto the programme by the Trust, before being triaged, online, by a specially trained Nuffield Health physiotherapist.

Over the 12 week pilot, patients will work with a rehabilitation specialist to design their individual plan consisting of at home exercises, before moving to one of our fitness and wellbeing clubs. Patients will also receive access to on-demand workouts, weekly emotional support calls and access to a community of participants where they can share their experiences.

Evidence from previous epidemics, like SARS and MERS, demonstrate it can take years for some patients to recover. The effects of Covid-19 leaves some patients with lasting physical damage and scarring to their lungs, resulting in difficulty with breathing and mobility. It also can exacerbate underlying health issues, like heart disease, diabetes and mental health conditions. NICE guidance indicates out of hospital rehabilitation strategies, following discharge after a critical illness, have been shown to help to improve patient recovery and long-term side effects by up to 50%. Our programme has been designed by a wide range of clinical teams, including respiratory experts, physiotherapists, emotional wellbeing and clinical exercise specialists.

Our Charity and Medical Director, Dr Davina Deniszczyc, said: “We know that some patients who have contracted Covid-19 are going to need specialist support for their rehabilitation. As the UK’s largest healthcare charity, our purpose is to build a healthier nation and we’re proud to partner with the NHS to offer patients this free pilot to help their recovery. 

“We are in a unique position among the fitness sector to utilise our broad range of expertise, across clinical, fitness and mental health to develop a programme to support the nation as it recovers from Covid-19. We will be capturing data throughout the programme, specifically at weeks 0, 6 and 12, to enable outcomes to be measured and evaluate the success of the programme. We will use these learnings to build and develop a national programme, sharing the data with the NHS and other healthcare providers.” 

John Oxtoboy, Medical Director at University Hospitals of North Midlands said: “We want to ensure we continue to give the best care to patients following their medical treatment for Covid-19 in the most appropriate setting. This programme will support our patients in their recovery and we would like to thank all of the teams involved for their hard work with this joint venture, which really demonstrates collaborative working in these challenging times.”

Last updated Thursday 6 August 2020

First published on Thursday 6 August 2020