Somerset physios set up private community rehab service to bridge gap for patients on NHS waiting lists

Physiotherapists in Somerset have set up a community rehab service that aims to provide interim treatment to fee-paying patients who are waiting for NHS care.

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Somerset physios Skye Rammel and Kelly Steed

Business partners Kelly Steed and Skye Rammel previously worked in community care in Bristol. Both recently moved to Portishead, north Somerset, where they established their private practice, Severn Physiotherapy.

Miss Steed said: ‘Our thinking is that we can take fee-paying patients off the NHS waiting lists for rehab, or at least bridge the gap before they start their NHS care.

‘Then we are helping both the NHS as well as the fee-paying patients - by seeing them sooner - and by reducing the overall waiting lists.’

‘While working in the NHS community setting, we saw far too many cases of patients being assessed too far down the line, due to the long waiting lists we were managing, sometimes up to 20 weeks.

‘Even shorter six week waiting lists are too long for patients who were previously walking, had a fall, were discharged to a nursing home and are now being fully hoisted with no rehab.

‘However, patients who are in this situation are classed as “safe” and don't meet the criteria for urgent care. This is disheartening and so we wanted to do something about it.’

The pair currently make home visits to patients during the day, to provide physiotherapy for mobility, respiratory and perinatal issues. They see sports, remedial massage and pregnancy massage clients in the evenings.

Plans to expand

At present, the service is available across north Somerset, Bristol and south Gloucestershire. In future, Miss Steed said they might branch out further or set up a franchise, so physiotherapists can set up similar services elsewhere.

She said their long-term goal was to set up as a social enterprise limited company and employ a team of staff who can work the hours they want to work, around childcare and other commitments.

‘Eventually, we would like to compete for community contracts with the CCG as our long-term plan, having both private and NHS patients on our caseload,’ she said.

Balancing work/life commitments

Both the physios have young children and Miss Steed said a desire to find a better work/life balance was a contributing factor in the development of their private business.

‘The commitment to NHS-style services was too much for the way we wanted to balance work and parenthood and our entrepreneurial sides felt a little frustrated during our time in the NHS,’ Miss Steed said.

‘And we have other local therapists who are keen to join who are all women with young children, so there is clearly a trend with female workers at this time in their lives finding NHS contracts unmanageable.’

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