Prof Natalie Pattison

Natalie Pattison is a clinical professor of nursing whom focuses on research in clinical practice. She is currently coordinating all the COVID-19 research trial activity at the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, where she works three days a week alongside her university commitments.

One of the clinical projects I have been involved in is the creation of a virtual recovery clinic for COVID-19 patients discharged from critical care. We’ve seen around 30 patients in clinic so far and we discuss their physical health, emotional and psychological wellbeing. The biggest challenge has been training a team in such a short space of time to run the clinic. Like many colleagues, they have been redeployed and needed to learn new skills quickly. They have certainly risen to the challenge and it’s been fantastic to see how everyone has pulled together.

What we hadn’t realised at the beginning was the scale of the health problems people face following recovery from COVID-related critical illness. Once discharged home, readjustment takes time, and some continue to experience breathing difficulties, cognitive issues, fatigue and weight loss. They may also experience psychological issues such as PTSD, depression and anxiety. There are also implications for returning to work. Luckily, through the clinic we can either support them or signpost them to some of the fantastic health and social care services we have in Hertfordshire.

I have also been involved creating national guidance on critical care staffing and worst-case scenarios, which nobody wants to think about but it’s important to plan for. My work, co-produced with two communication and palliative care experts, on the difficult conversations doctors need to have when withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, such as ventilation, has been endorsed by NHS England and published by Health Education England and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine.

Something I’ve been struck by when speaking to recovering COVID-19 patients is their reported quality of life once they are healthier and back at home. The mortality rate for COVID-19 patients in intensive care is roughly 50%, so many sadly pass away. But many who recover from this horrendous illness are grateful and thankful that they can continue with their lives. They have a renewed, stronger sense of living.