Some hip fracture patients are having to wait up to 80 days for a physiotherapist to visit them at home after being discharged from hospital, a union has warned.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) said patients are facing unacceptable variations in care, with the amount of rehabilitation patients receive varying greatly.
Hip fracture is the most common cause of injury-related death in adults, with fractures affecting one in three women over 50 and costing the NHS and social care £1 billion a year.
Patients who do not receive rehabilitation soon after leaving hospital risk deteriorating health, losing their mobility and depression, the CSP said.
But an audit conducted by the Royal College of Physicians found just one in five patients received rehabilitation within one week of being discharged from hospital.
The average wait was 15 days, but some patients had to wait up to 80 days.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) guidelines state that after surgery, hip fracture patients should be offered rehabilitation at least once a day – but the research revealed more than four out of 10 (43%) missed a day’s therapy due to no physiotherapists being available.
Hospitals are responsible for arranging onward care following a hip fracture, but only one in five (20.5%) of the 127 acute hospitals who took part in the audit successfully maintained the continuity of their patients’ rehabilitation.
Iona Price, deputy chairwoman of the Falls and Fragility Fracture Audit Programme, lost her 88-year-old mother to a chest infection, one of the risk factors for hip fracture patients who do not receive continuous rehabilitation after leaving hospital.
She said: “My mother broke her hip in 2012 and had to wait almost four months for community rehab services.
“During that time, she had to move into a nursing home and was completely dependent on others for her every need, which soon led to depression.
“Complete loss of independence aside, I can’t help but think she would have made a much healthier recovery had her access to treatment been timely.
“We encourage patients and their loved ones to raise concerns with their local GP if they are not able to access the rehab that they need.”
CSP chief executive Professor Karen Middleton said: “High quality and intensive rehab in the first week after surgery gives hip fracture patients the best chance of recovery, and at least 20 minutes of therapy a day could free up 1,000 hospital beds a year.
“We must invest in transforming acute and community services to ensure access to high quality rehab and continuous care for all those who need it.”