Health

Amputees and stroke survivors are being ‘imprisoned at home’ due to lack of physiotherapy

They tried to make me go to rehab, but the NHS said no, no, no: Amputees and stroke survivors are being ‘imprisoned at home’ due to lack of physiotherapy services, report warns

  • Long waits leaving many patients with greater need for health and social care
  • Pressure of trying to work under poor conditions is also taking its toll on staff 

Patients are being left with increasing levels of disability and depression because of a lack of NHS rehabilitation services, physiotherapists have warned.

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Amputees are among those left waiting months for care, with some people treated in cupboards and corridors due to a shortage of proper rooms, it is claimed.

Meanwhile, stroke survivors are left ‘imprisoned at home with a bed and a commode’ while they wait to be seen, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy added.

Long waits are leaving many patients with greater need for health and social care and at higher risk of being admitted or readmitted to hospital.

Patients are being left with increasing levels of disability and depression because of a lack of NHS rehabilitation services, physiotherapists have warned

The pressure of trying to work under these poor conditions is also taking its toll on staff, with 87 per cent reporting low morale, 70 per cent increased stress and 58 per cent looking to leave their posts.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy collected responses from members who reported cuts to services in more than 100 areas, covering more than half of all health boards and trusts across the UK.

These cuts take the form of rehab space being taken away from services during the pandemic and either not returned or replaced by ‘inappropriate’ alternative facilities.

Some of these new spaces lack heating and running water or are located in areas that patients cannot reach.

Almost three quarters of physio staff (73 per cent) said they cannot offer the rehab services their patients need and half (50 per cent) say the loss of rehab space means they are seeing fewer patients each week.

Nearly half (46 per cent) say it has resulted in a poorer quality of life for patients due to physical pain and immobility.

It is also leading to patients having poorer mental health such as depression and anxiety (33 per cent), increased levels of disability (38 per cent) and higher chance of being readmitted to hospital in the future (37 per cent).

Professor Karen Middleton, chief executive of the CSP, said: ‘We are hearing devastating stories of physio staff having to provide vital rehab in corridors and storage facilities.

‘Rehab gyms that are crucial for treating cardiac, stroke, amputee patients were repurposed during the pandemic but never returned.

‘You can draw a direct line between these decisions and ambulances queuing outside A&E, along with patients then being stuck in hospital.

‘Without quality rehab – whether in hospital or in the community – patients do not recover as well as they should, or experience serious deteriorations in their condition, and this only places greater pressure on those parts of the system that are already struggling to cope.’

An NHS physiotherapist from East Midlands, who qualified in 1994 and specialises in neurological physiotherapy, said: ‘The health trust tried to take the stroke gym away but that’s like taking an operating theatre away from a surgeon.

‘Since covid, I have seen patients develop secondary complications due to the lack of therapy – symptoms such as spasticity, which I haven’t seen since the 90s prior to the stroke guidelines.

‘Currently there are too many people being imprisoned in one room at home with a hospital bed and a commode.’

A physiotherapist based in London, specialising in trauma and neurological conditions, said: ‘We lost both our gym spaces where we delivered our rehabilitation programmes to patients at the beginning of the pandemic, and more than 2 years later we were still fighting to get it back.

‘Our gyms contain vital equipment to support our patients to recover but also to support us to deliver care to our patients.

‘For instance, it helps me manage or handle a 15 stone man who has had a stroke so that we can ensure that he is doing exercises that are crucial to him regaining function.’

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