Vital rehab spaces being used for storage in Scotland

Reports from across Scotland reveal that rehabilitation facilities are being used for storage space and meeting rooms 

Patients are missing out on physiotherapy and rehabilitation services because vital spaces are being de-prioritised by Scottish health boards, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has warned.  Reports from across Scotland reveal that rehabilitation facilities are being used for storage space and meeting rooms while the pace of re-opening and re-starting services remains slow.

During this second wave of the pandemic, physiotherapy will be critical to Covid-19 rehabilitation. Physiotherapists assist Covid and “Long Covid” patients recovering from fatigue, ongoing respiratory problems, deconditioning and poor mental health. In addition, the closure of rehabilitation services means that many non-Covid patients with long-term conditions have deteriorated, and now require more rehabilitation, alongside the ongoing needs of cardiac, stroke and respiratory referrals in the community.

Despite this huge need, rehabilitation spaces in various health boards are being moved out without relocation plans and gymnasiums are being requisitioned for other purposes such as storage and meeting rooms. In a recent survey, 47% of CSP members in Scotland said reported that a loss of rehabilitation space is why services have been unable to resume. Relocation and redesign is taking place without risk assessments, with poor planning and a lack of consultation.

Kenryck Lloyd-Jones, CSP Public Affairs and Policy Manager for Scotland, said: “The reports we are receiving from across Scotland are deeply concerning. It seems that not only are physiotherapy and rehabilitation services being slow to restart, they are being moved without relocation plans, downgraded or undervalued. We recognise the challenges in health settings and the need to re-organise, but it is essential that rehabilitation services are prioritised. 

“Changes require proper consultation, risk assessment and planning. It is critical that the rehabilitation needs of people are not forgotten.”

A number of patient groups are also warning of a lack of investment and undervaluing of rehabilitation. While some rehabilitation is taking place virtually, physiotherapists still need enough space and equipment to run sessions effectively.

The CSP wrote to all regional health boards last month to urge them to prioritise rehabilitation as services are re-started, stating:

“The CSP is strongly advising action to address this lag in progress, not least because the post-Covid rehabilitation needs of Scotland’s communities are pressing. Local authorities and Integrated Joint Boards also need to ensure that where rehabilitation is required in community settings, that health professionals can resume services.

“With the publication of the Scottish government’s rehabilitation framework, the emphasis must return to early intervention, reducing hospital admission, early supported discharge and improved outcomes. Musculoskeletal and community rehabilitation services are essential to this.”


Notes to editors:

  • The CSP is the professional, educational and trade union body for the UK’s 59,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and assistants:  

Examples of services losing space and being downgraded include:

NHS Ayrshire and Arran 
Cardiac gymnasium now used for storage, women’s health and paediatrics moved to two small cubicles Rehabilitation spaces converted to meeting rooms

NHS Fife
Gymnasium space used for storage space with no plans to return it, while physiotherapists attempt to offer rehabilitation in inadequate shared spaces with under staffed provision

NHS Forth Valley 
Therapy Department for MSK Outpatient and Women’s and Children’s Physiotherapy in FVRH is to be converted into an Urgent Care Centre by 31 October. The preferred new site for MSK Outpatients will displace an area used for Neuro Outpatient Rehab and does not have space for a gym. 

NHS Grampian
Cardiac rehabilitation services were paused in March and patients are advised that the health board is ‘unable to return to delivery of our service as it was before the Covid-19 surge’

NHS Lothian
In West Lothian, a rehab ward has been lost, the gymnasium is now used for storage, leaving the remaining rehab areas on wards inadequate. 

  • Numerous professional bodies and service user organisations have been raising concerns over rehabilitation services

The umbrella group ARAMA recently published a statement on restarting services Last month the ‘Right to Rehab’ coalition wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Health calling for investment in rehabilitation services, stating: “Without taking action to address the rehabilitation needs of everyone in Scotland, we risk placing even further demands on our already stretched health and social care services, by storing up problems for the future.”  Find out more 

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