Campaign calls for end to tragedy of wasted lives

Stop wasting so many of the lives you save, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has told the NHS as it launches a new campaign to improve access to community rehabilitation services.

Medical advances and the skill of NHS staff are keeping far more people alive than in the past following potentially fatal injuries and illness.

However, the CSP is warning that too often, patients leaving hospital are unable to access high-quality rehabilitation services to continue their recovery and regain their independence, with devastating consequences for some.

The Stroke Association reported that 45 per cent of stroke survivors feel abandoned when they leave hospital (1).

Meanwhile, just 50 per cent of people with hip fractures were found to have any rehabilitation after leaving hospital, with most waiting more than four weeks (2).

Waiting too long for vital rehabilitation – or missing out entirely - can reverse recoveries and cause lasting damage to a person’s quality of life.

That gap in provision also brings greater pressures for the NHS, as shown by research published earlier this month on the ‘survival effect’ (3).

It showed greater numbers of people kept alive by the NHS, but significantly higher numbers of A&E admissions because of their increased need for support after leaving hospital.

Access to community rehabilitation services also helps people get out of hospital once they are well enough to return home – some 55 per cent of delayed discharges are down to problems arranging ongoing NHS services (4).

The warnings from the CSP coincide with the release of a new short film, called ‘Rehab Matters’, which contrasts the experiences of a patient who receives physiotherapy after leaving hospital with one who misses out (5).

Prof Karen Middleton, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said:

‘The NHS does truly extraordinary things to keep people alive but then too often drops the ball when a person leaves hospital.

‘This is grossly unfair on the patient, who has survived a traumatic ordeal only to discover that they face considerable barriers to making the fullest recovery possible.

‘Too many people are left facing a distressing future dependent on health and social care when access to high-quality rehab could have made an enormous difference to their life.

‘It is a hidden scandal because it takes place in people’s homes, away from the public glare which so often falls on hospital pressures.

‘But it’s one that as a nation we must address to stop the system wasting so many lives for entirely avoidable reasons.’

Surrey resident Iona Price’s mother broke her hip in 2012 and had to wait around 12 weeks for community rehab services.

‘During that time, she had to move into a nursing home and was completely dependent on others for her every need which soon led to depression,’ Iona said.

‘Complete loss of independence aside, I can’t help but think she would have made a much healthier recovery had her access to treatment been timely.

‘The NHS needs to urgently review how community rehab services can be improved and expanded to meet the increasing demand of our ageing population.’

The CSP and other organisations, including Arthritis Research UK and the Stroke Association, have called on the Health Select Committee to launch an inquiry into provision of community-based rehabilitation services.

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