Wait for therapy

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WITH regard to the article in the County Times on October 20 headed ‘County has worst waits for physios’, the problem with access to therapies including physiotherapy was a concern highlighted in the North-East West Sussex Health Review in January 2009.

The review made three recommendations about therapy provision. They are Recommendations 21, 24 and 26.

Recommendation 21 relates to children therapy services (including physiotherapy). Access to better children’s physiotherapy is being met at Horsham Hospital at the Hill Top Centre.

Recommendation 26 relates to the need to develop a stroke/neuro community rehabilitation (CRT) service in the north of the county to deliver therapies (including physio in people’s own homes after an acute hospital admission).

A very successful Stroke Community Rehab Team has been running in the north of the county at Crawley, Horsham, Haywards Heath and East Grinstead areas for the past 16 months, and has treated 231 stroke patients to date. This service has helped to assist in many cases the earlier discharge for stroke patients from the acute hospital back to their homes than was the case before the CRT was in place.

The team is based at Horsham Hospital and includes physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and some psychology. It is hoped to develop the service to include other neuro conditions, however this service is time limited and does not have the capacity to deliver ongoing therapies in people’s own homes. Some patients need more specialist therapy and equipment that only a therapy unit in a hospital can provide.

Recommendation 24 was to agree a plan to bring therapy staffing levels up to required levels across the whole of north-east Sussex. This plan has been delayed because of the new Health Bill and changes in commissioning of health services.

At Horsham Hospital there has been an added problem of an outdated therapies unit not able to accommodate increased numbers of patients in a first-rate way. A decision on funding of a full refurbishment of the therapies department at the hospital is imminent and has the full support of the hospital’s League of Friends.

However this decision cannot be made until another decision by local GP / health professionals commissioning groups is taken on whether they will fund patients needing therapy at the hospital and the numbers of patients they will funding. The decision delays have meant that already long waiting times for therapies in 2009 has grown even longer.

The new Health Bill requires GP and Health Trusts to consult and involve local patients in their decisions - ‘no decision about me / us without me / us’ - so if you have a comment or view about local therapies services please make them known to your GP practice Patient Participation Group and to the West Sussex Local Involvement Network (LINk).

The North-East West Sussex Review made 45 recommendations and the Sussex Cluster PCT are due to report on progress on all these recommendations before the end of the year and on how local commissioning groups are proposing to take the recommendations forward. Please look out for the report so that you can make comments and your views known. LINks are made up of volunteers and community groups who work together to improve local services. The LINk gives people the opportunity to influence local health and social care services. If you would like to find out more, visit the website at www.makesachange.org.uk and click on ‘West Sussex’.

LILIAN BOLD

Member of West Sussex LINk Stewardship Group

Hurst Road, Horsham