Support and follow-up needs of patients discharged from Intensive Care after severe COVID-19: a mixed-methods study of the views of UK general practitioners and intensive care staff during the pandemic's first wave
BackgroundAfter discharge from an intensive care unit(ICU), over 50% of patients face significant physical, mental and cognitive problems. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a large cohort of these patients who will need follow-up services that can address their support needs. ObjectivesTo identify follow-up services planned for COVID-19 patients discharged from ICU, and to explore the views of ICU staff and General Practitioners(GPs) regarding these patients future needs and care coordination. DesignSequential mixed-methods UK study. We explored usual follow-up practice after ICU discharge and changes in follow-up during the pandemic through a survey of ICU staff, and GP awareness of follow-up and support needs of patients discharged from ICU through a survey of GPs. Through these surveys, we identified participants for semi-structured interviews with both groups. ResultsWe obtained 170 survey responses and conducted 23 interviews. Over 60% of GPs were unaware of the follow-up services generally provided by their local hospitals, and whether or not these were functioning during the pandemic. Eighty percent of ICUs reported some form of follow-up services, with 25% of these suspending provision during the peak of the pandemic, and over half modifying their provision (usually to provide the service remotely). Complex funding streams, poor communication between primary and secondary care, and lack of clarity about who was responsible for referrals and follow-up were the most common problems identified. Discharge documentation was described as poor and lacking key information. Both groups mentioned difficulties accessing services in the community. ConclusionsThe pandemic has highlighted long-standing issues of continuity of care and complex funding streams for post-ICU follow-up care. The large cohort of ICU patients admitted due to COVID-19 highlights the need for improved follow-up services and communication between specialists and GPs, not only for COVID-19 patients, but for all those discharged from ICU. Article SummaryO_ST_ABSStrengths and limitations of this studyC_ST_ABSO_LIThis is the first study exploring NHS staff views of post-ICU follow-up services to support patients recovering from severe COVID-19. C_LIO_LIResponses to our survey had good geographic spread but were limited in number and relied on volunteers. C_LIO_LIGP interviews were small in number, but our findings align with those of larger studies conducted before the pandemic. C_LI
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