FORTY patients from across Gwent are taking part in Wales' first Covid-19 rehabilitation programme, designed to help those who fell critically ill to recover physically and mentally.

Based at the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome of Wales in Newport, the programme targets patients who were ventilated in an intensive care or respiratory high dependency unit at the Royal Gwent or Nevill Hall Hospitals.

Set up by the Royal Gwent's respiratory team, the programme supports patients after their discharge and aims to get them back to where they want to be, both mentally and physically.

Long stays in an intensive care unit can have a significant impact on how a patient functions physically, and on their quality of life, and the programme brings together several specialist services, including respiratory, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, dietetics, psychology and the National Exercise Referral Team.

Crucially, the support provided is driven and led by each patient, with the programme tailored to individual needs.

It runs over an eight-week period and the 40 patients involved have been identified through a multi-disciplinary team assessment as likely to benefit from a range of specialist support.

Scott Howell, 48, from Blackwood - the first patient to be admitted to the Royal Gwent's intensive care unit with coronavirus - is one of the patients taking part.

He spent eight weeks in hospital, including two-and-a-half weeks in a coma, before being discharged at the end of April, and said at the time that he faced "many months" of recovery.

“When I was told about this service I thought it was amazing," he said.

" You don’t expect the NHS to provide such brilliant support as they already do enough.

"But I think this will help lots of people who have been in intensive care.”


The respiratory team identified the need for ventilated patients to have dedicated rehab to aid physical and mental recovery.

Requests from patients and families seeking advice on how best to support distinct and specialist needs after discharge were also a key factor in setting up the programme.

Dr Martha Scott, clinical director for respiratory services with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, has been instrumental in its development alongside lead clinician Dr Sara Fairbairn.

“The health board is pleased to be able to offer a new collaborative post Covid-19 rehabilitation programme, for those that have experienced critical illness resultant from Covid-19 infection," said Dr Scott.

“This is the first bespoke post Covid-19 programme that is to be offered in Wales.”

Dr Fairbairn said dynamic multidisciplinary team working across a number of specialties - including respiratory, critical care, physiotherapy, psychology, dietetics and occupational therapy - has made the programme a reality.

“We hope this allows the best recovery possible for these patients,” she said.

The programme runs twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with two 90-minute sessions a day. Patients attend once a week in a group of 10.

The velodrome was chosen as the venue to support the need for the service to run in compliance with appropriate infection prevention and social distancing measures to keep patients and staff safe.

“Whilst our venues are closed to the public, we have been working with an amazing team at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and our Newport exercise referral colleagues to ensure the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome of Wales offered a venue that is suitable, safe and clean in order to help with patients’ rehabilitation," said Newport Live chief executive Steve Ward.

“The team at Newport Live has been privileged to be a part of the development of a vital new service, and are proud to be able to support this pilot, the first of its kind in the UK, and wish everyone well with their ongoing recovery.”