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Can support workers improve the rehab of seriously ill patients?

Almost 250 generic rehabilitation assistants will be recruited to work across physiotherapy, occupational therapy and all other allied health professions, as part of a major research study in Scotland.

The research will aim to establish whether the cross-discipline assistants can improve patients’ rehabilitation once they have left intensive care, but before they have been discharged from hospital.

The study will take place in two Edinburgh hospitals, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and the Western General hospital, and patients will be allocated a band 4 assistant as their contact during the rehabilitation process.

The assistants will be available for the patients’ first three months after they leave intensive care, and if they are discharged from hospital they will still be able to contact their assistant by telephone.

The Chief Scientist Office in Scotland is providing around £420,000 to help fund the study.

Physiotherapist Lisa Salisbury, who will manage the trial, said many patients who had experienced critical illness later faced a range of physical, psychological and social problems.

The study will ask whether a generic rehabilitation assistant can help patients access the wide range of rehabilitation they often need.

She said the assistants that will be recruited for the trial, starting in September, will have previously worked in a healthcare assistant role, ideally within an allied health profession.

CSP associate member officer Catherine Smith welcomed the study.

She said: ‘This research should demonstrate the kind of roles that support workers can play within the rehabilitation process. It should be good for support workers, good for physiotherapy and the other allied health professions, and importantly, good for patients.’

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