Seriously ill and injured patients at Southampton's university hospitals are spending less time in intensive care - thanks to an innovative bedside bicycle.
All patients in the general intensive care unit at Southampton General Hospital are screened on admission and, if suitable, are placed on an early exercise programme once their conditions have stabilised.
The project - which was the first in the UK at the time of its launch three years ago - is led by a team of physiotherapists who mobilise patients and help them use the hi-tech system, known as a cycle ergometer, despite often being on complex organ support at the same time.
In its first year, the team treated 97 patients and saw the average length of stay on intensive care reduced by two days, along with feedback of improved confidence levels among all patients and a desire to continue the programme after discharge.
In addition, the recruitment of more physiotherapists enabled the team to extend the service from five to seven days a week.
It has led to a yearly cost saving of up to £230,000 a year, which has seen the team shortlisted for a Health Service Journal Value in Healthcare award for value and improvement in clinical support services.
"We know from a multitude of studies that prolonged admission to intensive care units following critical illness is associated with significant long-term implications that can severely reduce quality of life," explained Dr Dominic Richardson, a consultant in critical care at Southampton General.
"What we have seen with this innovative, physiotherapy-led service is not just less time spent in intensive care, but a real transformation in patients' physical and psychological health following critical illness - and the effect of that cannot be underestimated."
He added: "Patients have consistently reported they feel the project improved their mobility and confidence, but that it also helped engage family members in their care, which is another crucial factor for patients' wellbeing."