UK healthcare decision-makers travelled to Austria this year to see first-hand the European model of neurological and musculoskeletal rehabilitation.
VAMED hosted visits to their state-of-the art facilities with their partner Circle Health. The healthcare providers invited several NHS trusts in line with the providers’ vision to spread the rehabilitation model here in the UK.
Circle Health and VAMED formed a joint venture to launch ‘Circle Rehabilitation’. It is a European-style rehabilitation service, centred at Circle Reading Hospital, UK.
Circle Health is experienced in delivering new facilities as well as partnering with the NHS. VAMED runs over 800 health projects in 79 countries worldwide. It is one of the largest providers of rehabilitation in Europe with more than 30 years’ experience in this service.
The European model of rehabilitation aims to alleviate the strain on acute hospitals – and taxpayers’ liability. The solution is opening specialised rehabilitation hospitals and units with high-tech equipment and multidisciplinary teams, at scale. The model shifts the patients’ and their families’ roles from passive recipients of care to active participants. This way patients move back to an independent life as soon as possible.
NHS trusts from around the UK sent their senior representatives to the visits: usually the CEO or COO, lead therapists, doctors (especially orthopaedic, geriatric, neurological) and head nurses. Each trust split their day into exploring two sites: the Neurological Therapy Center Kapfenberg (NTK) and the Rehaklinik Wien Baumgarten (see descriptions below).
At the rehabilitation centres, multi-disciplinary staff corroborate with every patient on an individualised therapy plan. A neurological patient, for example, could have a day schedule of cognitive group therapy, underwater strengthening, individual speech therapy, group lunch, strength training, individual physiotherapy and computer group therapy. An orthopaedic patient’s day could involve occupational therapy, group therapeutic gymnastics, physiotherapy, ultrasound, endurance training, group lunch, individual psychological counselling, ultrasound, underwater training and strength training.
The visitors saw high quality medical technology. Some NHS trust staff could try the equipment for the first time in their careers, such as the anti-gravity treadmill. Visitors saw neurorobotic equipment (for gait-assisted therapy) and gait analysis machines. They walked through the occupational therapy spaces: kitchens (where patients learn to cook again), handcraft rooms (where patients learn manual tasks again, such as hammering a nail) and therapy gardens (where patients learn to garden again). The groups also visited the accommodation, patient lounges and dining rooms. A stroke, for example, can make eating a challenge for a patient. A supervised dining area breaks the mould of common UK rehabilitation practice. Rather than patients eating in their room, communal dining gradually mobilises them back to an independent lifestyle.
Circle Health, VAMED and the delegations of the UK healthcare met at the end of the site visits. They discussed opportunities for collaborating on future ‘European-style’ rehabilitation projects in the UK.
VAMED and Circle Health proposed scaling up the European model in the UK. Integrating the European model of rehabilitation into the UK health system will fill the gap between acute hospitals and care at home. The healthcare providers also urged the UK healthcare delegations to consider better standardisation to optimise rehabilitation, such as the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF).