The medical ward teams at West Cornwall Hospital are spearheading a new initiative to encourage patients to use everyday activities as part of their 24-hour rehabilitation programme to maintain mobility and independence while in hospital.

The initiative is very much about encouraging patients, their families and visitors, to get involved in their rehabilitation and to empower patients to feel more confident to keep doing for themselves the things they would normally do at home, such as washing and dressing, eating at the table, and simple daily exercises.

“The idea stems from a leaflet designed for patients in community hospitals that had been put together by Cornwall Foundation Trust therapy lead Vicki Slade,” said Chris Andrews, physiotherapy lead at West Cornwall Hospital. “I could see it had potential for adaptation in our acute hospitals and could play a part in our patients’ recovery and wellbeing.

“A previous exercise, aimed at reducing delays during a patient’s stay in hospital, had also led to a greater use of communal tables for mealtimes on the wards at West Cornwall Hospital. We had found that it helped improve patients’ mood and nutritional intake, and provided greater structure to the day, but had not been fully embedded in practice; and we wanted to support this.”

Together with the strong evidence to support increased mobility and exercise levels in helping to reduce the likelihood of risks such as hospital acquired pneumonia, pressure ulcers and loss of muscle mass, 24-hour rehab should help to reduce lengthy stays in hospital.

“It’s not uncommon for patients to feel disempowered once we put them into pyjamas and into a bed,” said Talwyn Schofield, lead occupational therapist. “We want our 24-hour rehabilitation programme to challenge that mind-set and to encourage patients to be as active as possible. We’ll ask visitors to bring in day clothes and suitable footwear for their family member or friend and to take them to enjoy the garden or day room, visit the coffee shop, or to work through some exercises together at the bedside.”

Chris added: “It’s very much a team effort with therapists, nursing and ward support colleagues working together to help and encourage patients who are well enough to be up and dressed in good time for lunch. We want them to expect that to be the norm and for their families and friends to support and encourage them too.”