Government to urge NHS to return lost rehab space, after gaining ‘valuable insight’ from CSP survey

Spurred on by the results of a CSP survey, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Nick Markham announced today that the government will be writing to all NHS chief executives to urge them to restore physiotherapy rehab facilities that were converted into overspill wards, storage rooms and other spaces during the pandemic.


Lord Markham was speaking during oral questions in the House of Lords this morning, when he acknowledged the results of a CSP survey which highlighted the shocking impact that the loss of rehab space is having on patient care.

Our survey revealed that a loss of rehab space has resulted in some patients having to be treated in corridors and cupboards, amputees having to wait months to access rehabilitation, and stroke survivors being left 'imprisoned at home with a bed and a commode’.

Despondent physiotherapy staff responded to the survey to inform us that cuts to services have increased levels of disability and depression among patients, leaving many with greater need for health and social care services and a higher chance of admission – or readmission - to hospital.

In response to a question raised by Baroness Wheeler this morning, Lord Markham, said:

We welcome the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy survey and the valuable insight this gives us regarding rehabilitation services

He also noted the call by the CSP for all space to be restored, and added: ‘Something we are now going to do is write to all the NHS Chief Executives on the back of that.’

Restore rehab space and boost the workforce

Karen Middleton, CSP chief executive, welcomed Lord Markham’s announcement, but also noted the government’s own obligations on the issue.

‘I’m delighted to see our pressure paying off and the government warning trusts of the devastating consequences that the failures to return space lost during the pandemic has caused,’ she said.

It is essential that local decision-makers provide enough rehab space for our members to give patients the care they need to make a full recovery

‘Doing that would be good for patients but also for the NHS and social care by reducing demand for services at a time when both systems are under so much pressure.

‘But as well as space, those services need staff.

‘It is critical for the government to publish its long-awaited workforce plan and, more immediately, to come back to the table with all health unions to negotiate a pay award that helps the NHS recruit and retain the staff it so desperately needs.’

Over-stretched and under-resourced

During the discussions in the House of Lords this morning, Baroness Wheeler said: ‘The CSP survey paints a dismal picture of the state of rehabilitation services, over-stretched and under-resourced prior to the pandemic and still struggling to establish rehab services that had their staff space and services re-diverted to deal with the crisis and chronic staff shortages.’

Baroness Ilora Finlay
Baroness Ilora Finlay

She was joined by CSP President, Baroness Ilora Finlay of Llandaff, who referring to some of the findings of the CSP survey when she asked Lord Markham:

‘Does the Government recognise that almost three-quarters of physiotherapists feel that they cannot do their job properly now, and as well as a workforce plan there needs to be a workplace plan for adequate rehabilitation that goes way beyond cancer and stroke services because all orthopaedic operations and many other interventions which will not be adequate without immediate physiotherapy in the post-op period.

By failing to provide physiotherapy we are stacking up problems for the future in terms of long-term physical dependency and not maximising the benefits of interventions provided early

Lord Markham’s response included an assurance that the government was taking action to restore rehab space and bolster physiotherapy services, and that they welcomed the involvement of CSP to help achieve these aims.

‘We are working with NHS Trusts to return the rehabilitation space. We are putting physiotherapy in a very important part of the workforce plan,' he said.

‘And we are providing the services so we are making a lot of progress, but I welcome the involvement of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in that.’

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