INTENSIVE care patients at Southampton General Hospital are being told to get on their bikes – literally.

Seriously ill and injured people are spending less time at the general intensive care ward at Southampton General Hospital thanks to an innovative bedside bicycle.

Now the team behind the project has been nominated for a prestigious award.

All patients admitted to the ward are screened and, if appropriate, placed on an early exercise programme once their condition has stabilised.

The project is led by a team of physiotherapists and is saving the hospital up to £230,000 a year by reducing the average intensive care stay by two days.

Dr Dominic Richardson, consultant in critical care at Southampton General, said: “We know from a multitude of studies that prolonged admission to intensive care units following critical illness is associated with significant long-term implications that can severely reduce quality of life.

“What we have seen with this innovative, physiotherapy-led service is not just less time spent in intensive care, but a real transformation in patients’ physical and psychological health following critical illness – and the effect of that cannot be underestimated.”

He added: “Patients have consistently reported they feel the project improved their mobility and confidence, but that it also helped engage family members in their care, which is another crucial factor for patients’ wellbeing.”

Patients use the hi-tech “cycle ergometer” bike despite often being on complex organ support at the time.

More physiotherapists have been recruited to extend the service to seven days a week.

The project was launched three years ago.

The team has been shortlisted for a Health Service Journal Value in Healthcare award for value and improvement in clinical support services.