Queen honours work of pioneering stroke and brain injury rehab physio

A physiotherapist whose work has helped to improve rehabilitation services for stroke and brain injury patients has been recognised in the Queen’s 2022 New Year Honours list.

Rhona Allison receiving her CSP Fellowship in 2019
Dr Rhoda Allison receiving her CSP Fellowship in 2019

CSP Fellow Rhoda Allison, who works as the associate director of nursing and professional practice at Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in recognition of her services to physiotherapy.

Her honours citation described her as ‘an inspirational physiotherapy clinician, leader and researcher in the field of stroke and acquired brain injury rehabilitation’ and stated that ‘while there are many physiotherapists working in the field, her contribution over the last twenty years has gone well beyond that expected even of an expert clinician.’

Dr Allison, who lives in Teignmouth, Devon, told Frontline:

I am humbled by this recognition, particularly in the current climate when I am surrounded by health and social care professionals all going the extra mile, every day

‘When I first started my career we didn’t really have specialist services for people after stroke, and services for people after brain injuries were rare.

‘We started developing better approaches. A lot had been focused on immediate acute care, but we needed to catch up with how we rehabilitate people.’

Dr Allison has contributed to the development of national policy, clinical guidelines, and quality assurance for stroke and brain injury services, and has also designed and undertaken her own research programmes.

Her work has also helped shape rehabilitation services for stroke and brain injury patients in South Devon which have since become the ‘gold standard’ model for other services across England.

A significant contribution

Dr Rhona Allison

Dr Allison graduated with a Diploma from St Thomas’ Hospital School of Physiotherapy, in London, before going on to gain a Masters in Health Science from Auckland University of Technology, in New Zealand, and a Doctorate of Clinical Research, from the University of Exeter.

In 2019 she received a CSP fellowship for her significant contribution to the advancement of physiotherapy in stroke neurological rehabilitation, and spasticity management, through her expert clinical practice, professional leadership, research and education of others.

Prior to that, in 2004, she received a Partnership Award from the MS Society and a few years later, in 2007, the South Devon stroke service she worked for was awarded the Health and Social Care Award for Improving Access.

Inspired and challenged

Rhoda Allison

After spending many years working with people with stroke and brain injuries, Dr Allison said she now sees her role taking on a broader responsibility for the care and rehabilitation of older people.

And she added that, throughout her career, she had been inspired by all the staff, patients and carers she has worked with.

‘People challenge you every day to do better,’ she said.

‘I spoke to the father of a patient in her twenties some years ago, and he told me that what we were doing really wasn’t good enough. I’ve always remembered that comment.

‘That really challenged me to ensure our patients had access to more intensive treatment.

Our work in this area is never done, and I am grateful to work with so many others who are really committed to improving rehabilitation

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