PATIENTS undergoing open heart surgery at Southampton’s teaching hospitals are spending less time in intensive care thanks to a pioneering rehabilitation programme.

Selected patients on the cardiac intensive care unit at Southampton General Hospital receive two additional 30 minutes sessions a day through a therapy technician.

This is in addition to a daily physiotherapy review and takes place during the first two to five days in intensive care.

The project has involved 110 patients over 11 months and resulted in a reduction in the need for ventilation by three days and a 39.3% improvement in the ability to perform daily activities.

Those on the early mobilisation programme have also required five fewer days on the intensive care unit – resulting in a cost-saving of £413,713.

Louisa Nielsen, senior physiotherapist, said: “Patients in intensive care units become de-conditioned, resulting in increased length of hospital stay and worse outcomes, We know early mobilisation helps to reduce muscle-wasting, is a powerful psychological motivator and shortens intensive care and hospital stay and, by utilising a therapy technician alongside a qualified physiotherapist, we have added a novel economic element to the concept.”

She added: “We have demonstrated the service is safe, very popular with patients, delivering excellent outcomes and is cost-effective.

“It would be readily transferable to any service providing care for patients following cardiac surgery and we look forward to sharing the practice with units nationally.”

The project, which is led by therapy technician Greg Juraczyk, was a finalist in last month’s Advancing Healthcare Awards 2018 for outstanding achievement by an apprentice, support worker or technician working alongside an AHP or healthcare scientist.