Speech and language therapy for COVID-19 patients

01 Aug 2020

Data on the functional outcomes of patients surviving an intensive care unit (ICU) admission for COVID-19 are as yet sparse. However, anecdotal experience across ICUs indicates that a high proportion have significant physical functional impairment (more than 50 % of those discharged from ICU) and because this is a multi-system disease the range of impairments is diverse. There is an immediate need to provide specialist, tailored and targeted rehabilitation for patients recovering from the disease to improve functional outcomes.

The key role of Speech and Language Therapists within ICU is widely recognised (see GPICS 2019 and NICE CG 83) and is essential to providing rehabilitation of communication and upper airway functions following critical illness. As the link between communication, swallowing and airway difficulties and broader outcomes for patients after COVID-19 infection is becoming clearer, this guidance will inform models and pathways for speech and language therapy services in the provision of high-quality rehabilitation. This fully integrated multidisciplinary rehabilitation pathway will serve as a lasting legacy for all patients, whether affected by COVID-19 or not, for years to come.