Providing specialist rehabilitation

When a traumatic event occurs we’d like to think that our health services are there for us. Particularly so if the event results in a form of trauma which requires long-term recuperative treatment. So would it surprise you to hear that in-patient specialist rehabilitation units only have the capacity to cater for 5% of the total number of individuals who are admitted each year to major trauma centres?

Those are the findings of a report commissioned by the Health Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) which looked into the provision of trauma care across England. As with many other health services the provision of specialist trauma care seems to be a postcode lottery with, according to district, between 1 and 8 adult trauma specialist rehabilitation beds available per 1 million people.

In bald terms, this means that across England only some 950 patients can be treated each year in specialist rehabilitation beds. The report also commented that under commissioning and insufficient staffing resulted in specialist rehabilitation units struggling to manage a complex caseload. Cost efficiency calculations were also not recorded by a quarter of the providers resulting in uncertainty about the balance between specialist treatment and long-term care in the community.

Now admittedly some of those who initially find themselves at major trauma centres may not require a high level of support but the report’s authors are calling on major trauma centres to “review the capacity and pathways for specialist rehabilitation following major trauma” in the light of the report. This should include the drawing up of local action plans together with an increase in the capacity of level Ic (cognative / behavioural) beds in order to shorten waiting times for these patients.

Trauma at all levels from major to relatively minor has an impact not only on the individual affected, but also on their family and their capacity to work. For the good of the individual as well as for the long-term health and productivity of the country it is therefore important that when an incident occurs priority is given to helping the individual to recover as swiftly as practicable. This means that all health professionals, whether they work in specialist NHS units or in private clinics have their part to play in providing rehabilitation treatments in a timely manner. Psychiatrists and counsellors, physiotherapists and mobility specialists, dentists and opticians; whatever the requirement, in helping the individual they are also helping the country.

But health professionals will only be able to give of their best when they in turn are supported by an efficient administration system. Addressing the rehabilitation needs of individuals requires concentration and a clear brain in order to draw on best practice knowledge. Health professionals won’t be able to give patients their full attention if they have worked late into the night in finding and filing notes, managing the appointment diary and dealing with the finances.

This is where backup systems such as online diaries, electronic filing of notes and card payments can make all the difference. In effect, by taking advantage of the support which is available to them, health professionals can in turn provide the best support possible to help their patients to recover. Yes, some will require the services of a specialist treatment centre; but for the rest, being able to call upon swift and timely rehabilitation services could make a significant difference to their long-term recovery.