Time for rehabilitation

“Rehabilitation, including physiotherapy, is essential in saving the lives of people with Covid-19 and in enabling people to live their lives to the full.”

That is the opening line of a CSP (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy) policy statement on rehabilitation and COVID-19. The statement highlights the challenges of delivering effective rehabilitation not only to those who have suffered from the coronavirus but also those whose treatment for and recovery from other conditions has been impacted by the lockdown.

As a result the CSP calls on national and local policy makers and leaders to ensure that support is delivered in five key areas in order to ensure appropriate levels of ongoing treatment. Alongside a commitment to “the right to rehabilitation as a fundamental element of our health and care system” the report emphasises the importance of planning and the deployment of adequate resources. This with a view to ensuring that those recovering from COVID-19 receive rehabilitation in the community after discharge whilst simultaneously ensuring that those who are recovering from serious injury or other illness have the ongoing support they need.

In our April 2020 article we talked about the new normal and the way in which health practices may find themselves evolving either in direct response to the crisis or as a result of experiencing positive benefits from reviewing existing ways of working. The CSP makes a similar comment, highlighting the way in which rehabilitation could and should start looking very different with an emphasis on a holistic personalised approach alongside a greater range of support options. These could include digital and telephone support as part of a rehabilitation package.

But it’s not just individual patients who are facing rehabilitation. The Prime Minister’s announcement on 10 May signalled the start of a period of rehabilitation for the country. We are starting to move away from the simple message of stay at home and save lives and taking the first steps towards a return to more normal way of living and working.  

Those steps will be gradual as we learn to find a way to work and interact whilst responding to the ongoing challenge posed by COVID-19. Whilst a return to the familiar may feel comforting we should not lose this chance to learn from recent experiences and adopt new ways of working. A recent poll revealed that 60% of those homeworking in the recent crisis would like to continue to do so.

That may not be practical for those involved in face to face health delivery. Nevertheless there are still opportunities for change; perhaps by moving to an electronic method of note storage, or by holding initial consultations or follow-ups on the phone or via computer. Maintaining an electronic diary or sending appointment reminders by SMS text can also help to reduce administration time thereby improving the time available for patient contact. And of course, limiting face to face contact to those times when there is no alternative can help to reduce interactions and therefore the potential spread of the disease.

Rehabilitation isn’t simply a way of reverting to a previous normal. Rather it is about finding a way to optimise the current situation. As such it looks forward not backwards, drawing on expertise to open up new pathways and new opportunities. Perhaps that is a lesson we could all take from our recent experiences.