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Soap operas highlight need for post-ICU care, warns nurse

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A south coast ward manager has said recent car crash storylines in two popular TV soaps have triggered an increase in requests for support from former intensive care patients and their families.

Fiona Hall, a senior sister on the general intensive care unit at University Hospital Southampton Foundation Trust, spoke out following storylines involving Coronation Street’s Nick Tilsley and Phil Mitchell in Eastenders.

She warned that reactions to injuries suffered by the characters highlighted a “desperate need” for better long-term care following discharge.

“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,” she added.

Ms Hall said: “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.”

Earlier this year, research published in the journal Critical Care suggested 70% of patients treated in ICU reported having moderate or severe pain a year after discharge, while 44% were significantly anxious or depressed.

Ms Hall said: “Many people will suffer in silence thinking that they are the only ones reacting in this way and often won’t even talk to their families for fear of upsetting them or, in some instances, being ridiculed.

“We are fortunate here in Southampton to have an excellent support network, but there are thousands of people out there who face ongoing psychological problems with no support mechanism in place to help them and that must change.”

In Southampton, long-stay ICU patients are invited to a follow-up clinic run by senior nurses and consultants, where they receive a review and emotional support before being referred to patient-run support group.

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