Making community rehab data count

Dr Stephen Ashford and Dr Ingrid Wilkinson Hart reflect on the Community Rehabilitation Alliance data and evidence group report

Dr Stephen Ashford and Dr Ingrid Wilkinson Hart
Dr Ingrid Wilkinson Hart and Dr Stephen Ashford

Rehabilitation in the community has a wide remit and includes people with a huge range of health conditions, however it is historically under-resourced and over-subscribed. The data systems to underpin the commissioning and delivery of such services are often lacking or poorly supported.

The Community Rehabilitation Alliance (CRA) data group used a multi-methods approach to gather insight from CRA member organisations and community rehabilitation service providers to:

  • explore how and why community rehabilitation commissioners and services currently use databases and identify gaps in data use.
  • explore the characteristics and types of data that could be included in an ‘ideal core dataset’ to identify needs and inform solutions.

Our conclusion is that a national community rehabilitation database is needed.

It must be simple to use, safe, efficient, hosted centrally and co-designed with stakeholders to reduce data entry duplication and foster data sharing. Such a database could help map service need and outcomes, support audit, service evaluation and research and improve integration between community services (including between acute, specialised rehab, long-term and social care partnership work). 

We believe NHS England and NHS Digital have a key role in supporting, funding and delivering a central database, including associated hardware and software. Without coordinated support, a national data collection system is unrealistic and indeed might be detrimental to service delivery given the unsupported clinical and managerial time costs required.

Data is critical to service planning and provision by commissioners, clinicians, service-users and health and social care organisations.

Without such data there is a barrier to providing the most appropriate rehab to those who need it, which has significant negative impact on individuals and society when rehabilitation input is lacking. 

  • Dr Stephen Ashford is a senior clinical lecturer and consultant physiotherapist at the Regional Hyper-Acute Rehabilitation Unit, London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, and Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London. Dr Ingrid Wilkinson Hart is lead physiotherapist at the Community Team for People with Learning Disabilities, Wiltshire Health and Care. 

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