Long COVID rehabilitation pilot comes to an end

Mary
Authored by Mary
Posted: Wednesday, December 29, 2021 - 15:18

Eight participants taking part in a long COVID rehabilitation pilot, ran in partnership between University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHP) and Plymouth Marjon University, have graduated after completing the 12 week programme.

The pilot, which started in August this year, was designed to help individuals suffering with long COVID build strength and improve their confidence while having fun exercising. Participants completed two sessions a week at the Marjon Sport and Health Centre, where they had access to facilities such as a gym, pool, and outdoor space.

Staff members from UHP were alerted to the impact a programme like this could have during the height of the pandemic while running mini classes on COVID wards. Recognising patients were benefiting in ways beyond the physical rehabilitation, the team at UHP decided to create a pilot programme to help treat the mental, emotional, and physical side effects of long COVID, with the intention of running further programmes in the future. 

Derriford staff Jude Fewings, Therapy Lead for the Covid-19 Respiratory, Rehab and Discharge Team, Physiotherapist Olivia Roberts, and Physiotherapist Assistant Helen White, identified individuals who would benefit from the pilot and who wanted to help others in their situation.

The UHP team then approached Professor Saul Bloxham, Director of the School of Sport, Health and Wellbeing at the university, after learning that Marjon were already supporting healthcare providers with several other projects such as treating pressure ulcers and back pain.

Professor Saul Bloxham was able to provide the qualified supervision and teaching needed to allow his students to work on the pilot, helping to create a valuable student knowledge exchange programme between the university and UHP.

Jude Fewings, from Derriford, said: “The collaboration with Marjon University and its staff and students, the extent of their facilities which were made available, and the overall benefits seen to the small pilot group of patients, have proved to be a template for future collaborations that can only be of benefit to the population of Plymouth and the staff and students at both institutions.”

The pilot was supported by a multidisciplinary team from Derriford Hospital which included speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, and dieticians. In addition, psychology advice and guidance were provided by Livewell in a truly blended healthcare approach to this complex illness. Each week a team joined the participants to offer presentations and guidance to improve the overall wellbeing and help counter the effects of long COVID.

The Marjon team, which included Health and Wellbeing Rehabilitator, Mike Prynn, and a number of Sport Rehabilitation students, were also on hand each week to offer help with strength and conditioning and goal setting. 

At the start of the pilot, the participants carried out a range of assessments to provide a benchmark for their progress and enable them to set personal and scalable goals. By reflecting on their data from the start of the pilot in weeks 6 and 12, the participants were able to see measurable improvements in their overall health.

Shelby Turner, a registered nurse from the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust who took part in the study said, “I had covid but didn’t require a hospital admission. However, I was really struggling with fatigue, brain fog and confusion.

“The main thing I have got from the programme was overcoming my anxieties around what is doing too much. I went from someone who was quite active and young and fit to then being worried about doing anything and being on the sofa for three days at a time. The programme has helped me understand how to pace myself and learn what is and isn’t good for me and accept that as well.

“When you don’t have to go to hospital you feel like you’re not that unwell and you haven’t really been affected. You feel like you don’t deserve to get help. However, I think the recognition that long COVID is a thing that really does affect people’s lives, and the experience of being around people who understand, has really helped me.”

During the final pilot session, the participants received a small gift as a gesture of thanks for their participation, a certificate, and copies of their final progress reports as part of a graduation ceremony held at the Marjon Sports and Health Centre. All participants made exceptional progress during the pilot although it is unknown if/when any future long COVID rehabilitation programmes will be carried out. 

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