Service development 27 July 2023

Meeting the needs of patients and families in critical care

Critical care patients and their families often need additional support, including help with post-traumatic stress, long-term psychological support, end of life planning or practical arrangements like emergency childcare.
Picture of five members of King's psychosocial team standing outside the critical care unit

During the pandemic, when critical care units were under enormous pressure, we funded a pilot project to help some of the hospital’s sickest patients. Thanks to generous donations from King's College Hospital Charity supporters and a charitable grant from NHS Charities Together, the first King's multidisciplinary psychosocial team was formed, providing vital support for patients in the critical care unit (CCU). 

Comprising a consultant psychiatrist, two clinical psychologists, a social worker and a support worker, the team is the first of its kind in the UK. They began taking referrals from King’s critical care department in June 2021 to provide psychological, psychiatric and social work support to patients. 

The team has made such a positive impact that they have now become a permanent fixture within the Trust, ensuring their vital work can continue long into the future.

Dr Christian Williams, lead clinical psychologist, spoke of the positive response the team has received from staff, patients and families, as well as the challenges of adapting traditional psychosocial interventions to suit the rapidly changing world of a critical care team:

“The multidisciplinary team is constantly working in partnership with other teams inside and outside the hospital to meet a wide variety of needs of existing patients and families. At the same time, we’re evaluating the service and adapting our pathways and inclusion criteria to shape how we grow and develop to provide the best support we possibly can.”
Dr Christian Williams, Lead Clinical Psychologist

By the end of March 2023, the team had received 1,802 inpatient referrals, mainly patients and families seeking emotional support in the most challenging circumstances. The multidisciplinary nature of the team means many of the factors that can delay discharge or increase the risk of readmission can be addressed. This includes safeguarding complications, homelessness, psychiatric assessment, and medication reviews.

“The team has been incredibly impactful since they started. Not only do they support patients and staff, they free up nursing staff to focus on patient care. They are experts in dealing with processes and procedures that we previously had to fumble through…we are more efficient because of them.”
Ward matron

Thanks to our funding, King’s College Hospital is now the unique position of being able to pave the way for psychosocial support for critical care patients and their families, improve their experience, and better long-term outcomes. 

Picture of a man asleep in hospital bed

Working together to support patients experiencing trauma

Addressing delirium is so important in critical care at King's. While it can exist in many different forms for different patients, this brief case study provides some insight into what a difference the best care can make for patients.