TV soaps show need for better long-term support of crash survivors

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RECENT car crash storylines in EastEnders and Coronation Street have triggered an increase in requests for support from former intensive care patients and their families.

Reactions to life-threatening injuries suffered by characters Nick Tilsley in Coronation Street and Phil Mitchell in EastEnders highlighted the “desperate need” for better long-term care following hospital discharge, senior nurse Fiona Hall from Southampton General Hospital said, and she called for better support nationally for those who have been in intensive care.

“We have recently seen major storylines in popular television soaps which explicitly detail the clinical intensive care experience and emotional rollercoaster – from shock and upset, to guilt and responsibility – that many patients, their families and friends face in reality and it has had a noticeable impact,” she said.

“A number of former patients have contacted our support group during the course of these stories to discuss how they have triggered memories of their own hospital experiences which, in some cases, happened many years ago.”

The intensive care sister added: “This tells us that, nationally, there is a desperate need for much more emphasis on dealing effectively with the after-effects of time spent in intensive care.”

Recent research in the journal Critical Care showed 70 per cent of patients treated in intensive care units reported having moderate or extreme pain a year after discharge, while 44 per cent were significantly anxious or depressed after 12 months. In Southampton, long-stay intensive care patients are already invited to return to a follow-up clinic run by senior nurses and consultants, where they receive emotional support alongside a review of the physical and social aspects of their recovery before being referred to a pioneering patient-run support group.

Heather Parsons, whose life was saved at Southampton General 11 years ago after she developed rare and aggressive soft tissue infection necrotising fasciitis, has launched a support organisation – Where there’s a Will – in partnership with the hospital trust

“The recent increase in calls, texts and emails I’ve had from members of our support group explaining how vivid recreations of the full intensive care experience are prompting flashbacks and memories gives a small but pertinent insight into the long-lasting and sometimes damaging effects of an admission,” said Ms Parsons.

“Our concern is that, while we are here for those facing difficulties, many other areas of the country won’t have such support in place and many people will be suffering with nowhere to turn.”