Long COVID

Rehabilitation after staying in hospital

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What will happen if I’ve been in hospital?

We know that not everyone will have been in hospital when they had COVID-19. Many people will have been managing their symptoms at home. However, if you have been in hospital, you might find this information useful, as it guides you through what care you can expect.

What will happen when I leave hospital?

Before you’re ready to return home from hospital, your healthcare team will work with you to make a discharge plan. This will list any help, medicines or equipment you might need to help with your recovery, and how you’ll get these. You should also be contacted by someone the day after you return home, to see how you’re getting on.

The type of care you get will depend on how unwell you’ve been. It could involve carers coming to your home to help you, or tips on how to get back to normal.

Your initial care plan will last for 6 weeks. If you need care for longer than 6 weeks, you may have to pay for it yourself, if you don’t qualify for free social care. If you’d like more information the care you can expect after staying in hospital, you can find this on the NHS website.

Your doctor should offer you a phone or video appointment 6 weeks after you’ve left hospital , to check how you’re getting on and whether your symptoms have changed. After you leave hospital, you might be wondering how long it’ll take to get back to normal. This will be different for everyone and it’s important not to rush your recovery.  

What will happen if I stayed in intensive care (ICU)? 

What will happen when I leave ICU?

As you start to get better, you may be moved to a different section of the ICU or transferred to another ward in the same hospital. Before this happens, you will have an assessment to see what care and support you now need. Your healthcare team may put together a rehabilitation plan for you, although you may have started one already, while being in ICU. 


When you move out of ICU, you will be cared for by ward staff. If the hospital you’re staying in has an Outreach service, you may be visited by an ICU nurse to check on your progress.


Moving to a general ward is a big step, as it means your condition is improving. It’s important to remind yourself that you’re still unwell and will need time to get better. You might be wondering when you’ll get back to normal after recovering from COVID-19, but this will be different for everyone. 

What will happen if I get a rehabilitation plan? 

Before you leave hospital, your healthcare team will do an assessment of your needs. After this, they may put together a rehabilitation plan. A rehabilitation plan will help you to recover your physical and mental health, so you can stay as independent as possible. It will help you return to work, education and help you do your daily activities.  


If you’ve been left with breathing problems after COVID-19, you may need pulmonary rehabilitation. Through this, physiotherapists, nurses and occupational therapists will support you with exercises to improve your lung function and information to help you recover.


If you have specific physical symptoms after intensive care, you might be referred to a healthcare professional who specialises in these symptoms. For example, you may see a physiotherapist if your muscles are very weak and you need help to start walking again. You might need to see a dietician, who can help you with issues that affect your eating or energy levels, such as problems swallowing.
Your rehabilitation plan might involve seeing healthcare professionals at home or in a clinic or hospital, or having an online programme to follow in your own time.

What will happen when I leave hospital after being in intensive care? 

Before you’re ready to return home from hospital, your healthcare team will work with you to make a discharge plan. This will list any help, medicines or equipment you may need to help with your recovery, and how you’ll get these. You should also be contacted by someone the day after you return home, to see how you’re getting on.


The type of care you get will depend on how unwell you’ve been. It could involve carers coming to your home to help you, or tips on how to get back to normal.


Your initial care plan will last for 6 weeks. If you need care for longer than 6 weeks, you may have to pay for it yourself, if you don’t qualify for social care. If you’d like more information the care you can expect after staying in hospital, you can find this on the NHS website. 


After you leave hospital, you might be wondering how long it’ll take to get back to normal. This will be different for everyone and it’s important not to rush.  

Medical appointments after being in intensive care

Guidance says that patients who have been in intensive care and been given a rehabilitation plan should have a review with a healthcare professional two to three months after being discharged from ICU.


This is your chance to talk about how you’re recovering and any worries you have. If your recovery is slower than expected, or you have concerns about your physical or emotional health, your healthcare professional might refer you to specialist services, like physiotherapy or a mental health team.


Remember, you don’t have to wait for this appointment to discuss any concerns you have about your recovery. You can contact your GP or healthcare team at any time. 

How can I prepare for my follow-up appointments?

It’s important to go to your follow-up appointments, as this will help your recovery, it’s also important to plan what you want to say to your doctor, so you get the most out of your time with them. 
When planning your follow-up care, your doctor will agree with you:

  • how often your follow-up appointments will be
  • which healthcare professionals should be involved
  • whether these appointments will be face to face or remote
  • whether you need to monitor yourself at home – such as checking your blood pressure or heart rate. 

 

 Next: What if I don’t have a rehabilitation plan?>

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Last medically reviewed: February 2021. Due for review: May 2021

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.