Rehabilitation is key to improving wellbeing, independence, and quality of life. Yet many people are not able to access quality services. Find out why community rehabilitation is important and what the RCSLT is doing to make it a priority across the UK.
What is rehabilitation?
Rehabilitation is a process of assessment, diagnosis, treatment and support to help regain, maintain, or slow loss of function and reduce symptoms. It is personalised and targeted at the person’s own goals for recovery and improves wellbeing independence and quality of life.
Any person may need rehabilitation at some point in their lives, whether due to an injury, illness, surgery, long-term condition or disease, or reduce function due to age.
Rehabilitation is also critical to prevention – reducing the risk of falls and the development of long-term conditions. This in turn helps to prevent readmission to acute services and reduces social care needs.
How speech and language therapy helps
Speech and language therapists (SLTs) support rehabilitation by helping people to achieve their maximum potential for communication and swallowing function. They may work closely with other members of multidisciplinary rehabilitation teams, or as the sole practitioner in a person’s rehabilitation journey.
The need for rehabilitation
Despite a growing demand for quality rehabilitation, the need is not currently being fully met.
There are gaps in provision, and wait times are often too long. In addition, the benefits of rehabilitation are not well-known among the public, healthcare professionals and commissioners.
Community rehabilitation supports people to live as well as possible. It also has economic benefits – reducing the need for more costly health and social care, reducing hospital admissions and supporting independent living, or a return to work for some service users.
National policy guidance
- Delivery plan for recovering urgent and emergency care services – Published in 2023, this aims to help recover urgent and emergency care services, reduce waiting times, and improve patient experience.
- Intermediate Care Guidance – The intermediate care framework and the new model for community rehabilitation and reablement following hospital discharge were published in September 2023. They are part of the wider Urgent and Emergency Care Services Delivery Plan.
- Enhanced health in care homes framework – Published in 2023, this framework is aimed at primary care networks (PCNs) and providers and commissioners of community health and social care services.
- Proactive care: providing care and support for people living at home with moderate or severe frailty – This was published in December 2023 and supports personalised and co-ordinated multi-professional support for people living with complex needs.
The Community Rehabilitation Alliance
The RCSLT is part of the Community Rehabilitation Alliance (CRA), a collective committed to improving commissioning, planning and delivery of rehabilitation. The alliance includes 50 charities and professional bodies who are working to deliver effective, person-centred community rehabilitation services to all those who need them.
- November 2021 manifesto (PDF) – Read the Community Rehabilitation Alliance manifesto shared by the RCSLT and our partners with political targets at the Labour and Conservative party conferences in 2021.
- Live Well for Longer report (PDF) – After the elections in February 2020, the alliance launched a report with alliance partners about the importance of community rehabilitation to people’s lives.
- Find out more the CRA, including a list of the organisations involved, on the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) website.
- Making community rehabilitation data count – this report, written by over 50 organisations, highlights the importance of data in transforming community rehabilitation.
- Best practice standards (PDF) – these standards provide recommendations to guide the development, delivery and monitoring of high-quality person-centred rehabilitation.
The following audit tools can support you and your service to ensure you are meeting the needs of people accessing your service and help to drive service improvements.
- Best practice standards: Director audit tool
- Best practice standards: Patient audit tool
- Best practice standards: Clinician audit tool
You might like to refer to the RCSLT’s health inequalities resources to support you.