Road Crash Victims Face Rehab Postcode Lottery

Consistent, Co-ordinated Care Could Save The NHS Around £120m

27.02.2013

More than 13,000 of the most seriously injured road collision victims face a rehabilitation postcode lottery every year, setting back their recovery prospects, according to new research published today.

Providing rehabilitation that meets a consistently high standard could save the NHS around £120m – enough to pay for 5,000 newly qualified nurses. The cost of such care could be offset in as little as two years through savings from shorter hospital stays, reduced costs for support in the community and more independent living.

Counting the cost of the rehabilitation postcode lottery for road crash victims written by OHE Consulting, and commissioned by personal injury law and rehabilitation specialists, Irwin Mitchell, reveals for the first time, the inconsistencies in care provided by Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) across the country.

Colin Ettinger, head of serious injury at Irwin Mitchell's London office, discusses the findings

The research shows variations in the way that rehabilitation information is captured and used is a real barrier to creating consistent standards of care across England. It highlights that certain PCTs are treating four times as many rehabilitation patients as others, regardless of population size. Provision of vocational rehabilitation services is clustered around London, the Midlands, and the North of England, with limited access highlighted in the South West.

Colin Ettinger, serious injury law and rehabilitation expert at Irwin Mitchell, commented: “We need to eradicate England’s rehabilitation postcode lottery. An inconsistent approach to managing rehab care - from the hospital through to care once patients are back at home - is costing the NHS dearly.

“But, more worryingly, patients’ long-term recovery is being put at risk as well as their job, their home, and their family’s financial security.  Every day, we see the incredible benefit that rehabilitation can have on victims of serious injury. In particular their ability to move forward, rebuilding their lives and their relationships with loved ones.”

The UK already has fewer rehabilitation specialists per head than any other European country - bar Ireland. And with frozen NHS budgets and the challenge to find £20bn in savings by 2015 with more cuts to come, rehabilitation services - particularly for serious injuries or specialist care - may be at further risk.

Working with front-line rehabilitation and medical specialists, Counting the cost of the rehabilitation postcode lottery for road crash victims makes a series of recommendations aimed at the Department of Health, and PCTs, designed to safeguard investment in rehabilitation services and address the disparity of care in certain PCTs:

1. The Department of Health to develop a consistent, national standard for recording rehabilitation data across all PCTs to allow for easy comparison. Each major trauma centre should appoint someone to take responsibility for recording this data

2. The Department of Health to identify best practice and demonstrate the financial benefits to secure further funding

3. PCTs to work together to calculate the life-long rehabilitation needs of patients, based on best practice, and pool funding to deliver it through a single body

4. PCTs to improve care for people once they are back at home through more specialist rehabilitation services

Emma Hawe, researcher at The Office of Health Economics, added: “Our research shows that there are significant variations in the way that some rehabilitation information is recorded, which is limiting patients’ recovery. By adopting a more consistent, co-ordinated approach across the country, we will not only help some patients to return home, but also save the NHS money for brain injury rehabilitation, at a time when they are under pressure to cut costs.”

Colin Ettinger, serious injury law and rehabilitation expert at Irwin Mitchell added: “This consistent standard of care will only deliver true benefits if it is integrated at all stages of the rehabilitation journey - from rehab and compensation to fund the necessary lifestyle changes, through to in-home care and help accessing Local Authority and charity support. Identifying and adopting best practice on a nationwide scale could turn the UK into a world leader in rehabilitation.”

Irwin Mitchell commissioned the research to better understand the current status of rehabilitation services and make recommendations about what can be done to improve access.

For more information, read the executive summary of the research (PDF)

Read more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise related to Head, Spinal Cord & Other Serious Injury Claims.