Recovery after critical illness

Critical illness of any cause can have significant and lasting effects on a person's physical and mental health.

It is not uncommon for even a short period of critical care treatment to be followed by a long stay in hospital. This may be followed by a longer period of recovery in the community, either at home or in a rehabilitation setting.​

Some patients will take months to recover to the point where they feel 'normal' again. In general, symptoms ease and/or resolve with time but some can become significant problems. Many difficulties can be overcome with explanation, reassurance, support or even medications. The ICU Steps groups offer excellent support for patients and relatives who have experienced critical illness. Patients' GPs or our dedicated Recovery after Critical Illness (RaCI) clinics may be able to help if these are problematic or persistent.

Common symptoms that can develop after critical illness include:

  • Tiredness / fatigue

  • Stiffness / acheing / pain

  • Reduced mobility / weakness

  • Loss of confidence with walking etc

  • Bowel or bladder changes

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Weight loss

  • Hair loss

  • Hearing loss

  • Visual impairment

  • Speech or swallowing difficulties

  • Emotional problems

  • Depression / anxiety

  • Sleep disturbance

Due to the frequency at which symptoms or problems develop after critical illness, we have specialist Rehabilitation after Critical Illness (RaCI) services on both the Freeman and RVI sites.

All patients admitted to intensive care for more than 4 days are either followed up on the ward or offered a clinic appointment automatically. Selected other patients, and any other patients wishing to self-refer, are also welcome to attend. Attendance is by appointment only due to the time required (around 40 minutes minimum) for each patient session.

The clinic is a multi-disciplinary appointment with physiotherapy, nursing and medical input. Explanation of critical illness (what happened, when and why) will be provided, and patients and families are invited to talk about their experiences and feelings. Ongoing physical and psychological problems are explored and, when necessary, appropriate specialist referrals, liaison with GP or medication changes are made.

RVI RaCI Service

Led by Dr Kaye Cantlay (consultant in intensive care medicine).

Clinics are held monthly.

Freeman RaCI Service


Medical leads are Dr Matthew Faulds, Dr Caroline MacFie and Dr Stephen Wright (consultants in intensive care medicine).

ACCP lead is Mrs Valerie Burnand

Nursing lead is Sister Emma Hubbard

Physiotherapy lead is Catherine Donnison

Weekly multi-disciplinary ward round of all RaCI eligible patients on the Freeman site happens on Wednesday afternoons.

Clinics are held monthly on a Thursday afternoon. They are led by a consultant or ACCP.