THE BLOG

Andrew Marr Was Right to Call for More Stroke Rehab

18/02/2014 22:46 GMT | Updated 20/04/2014 10:59 BST

Access to physiotherapy isn't generally a topic that is raised by celebrities on chat shows.

But on Saturday night's Jonathan Ross Show, the TV presenter Andrew Marr drew loud applause by doing just that.

Marr suffered a stroke last year and was discussing how physiotherapy had played a crucial role in his rehabilitation.

But, he said, that was because he was able to pay for it.

Those less fortunate were finding that physiotherapy after leaving hospital was either limited or not available at all.

"There are lots of people all around the country who are in their 20s and 30s and they're in a wheelchair or they can't walk and they can't work," he said.

"They are going to spend 50 or 60 years dependent on the state, unable to pay taxes, unable to work and have a full life.

"With a bit of physiotherapy we could turn that around and as a country we have to give people physiotherapy after a stroke."

That's when the applause happened - in the studio and, no doubt, in the homes of physiotherapists across the country.

Our members are well aware that the NHS performs miraculous feats each day to keep people alive, but could then do more to help them recover.

They know how important it is to continue the rehabilitation provided in hospital - which is largely good- once a patient is discharged.

Those working with stroke patients see the benefits of this as people regain function and mobility to the point where they can return to work or live independently.

This is specialist care, tailored to the individual's needs and desired outcomes, with the power to transforms lives.

To give an example, the stroke therapy team at Northern Devon Healthcare Trust has developed a seamless service that provides patients with continuous care from hospital to home.

Working with other health and social professionals, the service ensures patients' needs continue to be met after discharge and it has halved readmission rates.

Examples like this demonstrate why, when support is not available, the consequences can be so devastating.

Without rehabilitation, patients struggle to regain mobility and function and many lose the ability to live independently.

This is a shocking, and avoidable, waste and it is crucial that the NHS ensures the pockets of excellent care that exist are replicated across the country.

But let's not stop there. Because it is not only stroke patients who struggle to get the rehab they need - there are gaps in provision after operations across the board.

It's the young person recovering from serious injuries suffered in a car accident who needs ongoing help to return to work.

It's the older person who broke a hip or a wrist in a fall and needs physiotherapy to avoid going into a care home.

And it's the arthritis patient who needs treatment after a knee or hip replacement to ensure the surgery is a success and prevent a readmission.

Rehabilitation saves money for the NHS by keeping those people out of hospital and reducing the pressure on services.

This is good for the broader economy as it reduces the welfare bill and keeps people in work.

But most importantly, rehabilitation is essential to the quality of life of the people who need it.

That is why we must do more to provide access to services, and Andrew Marr's intervention will hopefully draw attention to this argument.

We must ensure that for more patients we not only add years to the life, but life to the years.