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Coalition demands right to rehab in Scotland

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A coalition of  health charities and professional bodies last week came together at the Scottish Parliament to demand that access to rehabilitation is recognised as a human right in law.

Tens of thousands of people across Scotland are currently not receiving the rehabilitation they require, with the recent Stroke Improvement Programme stated that an estimated 40,000 people who have suffered from a stroke in Scotland and have been hospitalised don’t receive stroke rehabilitation.

The Right to Rehab Coalition launched its campaign to ensure that the right to rehab is included in the Scottish Government’s forthcoming Human Rights Bill.

The coalition is a collective of health charities and professional bodies who are committed to delivering the Right to Rehab in Scotland. It includes Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE), Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Royal College of Occupational Therapists, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, Stroke Association, Asthma and Lung UK, RNIB, and Parkinsons UK.

The Scottish Government is proposing to create a Human Rights Bill that puts several UN treaties into law. These treaties already recognise the Right to Health and the Right to Rehab. The Scottish Government is proposing to make these law in Scotland.

As part of its campaign of support, the coalition has launched a petition to enable the public to show its support for the addition of the right to rehabilitation to the bill.

Representatives of the coalition were joined at the Parliament by people living with long-term conditions who have first-hand experience of impact access to appropriate and timely rehabilitation can have, including stroke survivor Nancy Barron from Perth.

Speaking at the Scottish Parliament, Nancy said: “Rehabilitation is as essential as the medicines prescribed to use after a stroke. You cannot have the one without the other.

“Rehabilitation needs to clearly planned and a path agreed to meet the needs of all stroke patients across the country.

“It’s ridiculous that we have to campaign for something that should be a given. It should be a right for all people with any health conditions that people are giving the support to help them make the most of their lives and be part of the community again.”

Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, the organisation leading the coalition campaign, said: “It is entirely unacceptable that so many people across Scotland struggle to access the rehabilitation they need to live full lives.

“We want the Scottish public to get behind our call for the right to rehabilitation to be included in the Scottish Government’s proposed Human Rights Bill so that everyone, regardless of condition or location, can access the rehabilitation they need for as long as they need it.”

Lucy Mulvagh, director of policy, research and impact, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) said: “Incorporating human rights treaties into law has the potential to be transformational for respecting, protecting and fulfilling people’s rights in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government must make sure the Right to Rehab, which ensures everyone has access to rehabilitation when needed, is included. It’s an essential element of the right to health – a right that everyone should fully enjoy. We encourage everyone to respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation on a Human Rights Bill, to show how human rights matter to you.”

Kenryck Lloyd-Jones, public affairs and policy manager for Scotland, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: “There is no right to health without rehabilitation. Rehabilitation can be the key to helping people get back to work or doing the things they love. It must be available to everyone following an accident, injury or illness. We know this is not the case currently.

“Investing in timely quality rehab and recovery services is also essential to enable the NHS to address long waiting times, reduce readmissions and for ease pressures on social care.

“The Scottish Government must include a Right to Rehab in the Human Rights Bill.”

James Adams, Director, RNIB Scotland said: “For people with sight loss, rehabilitation is crucial to maintaining independence.

“Right to Rehab should be incorporated as a human right. Investment in rehab not only improves outcomes for the individual it saves money for the public purse further down the line.”

To sign the petition to support the Right to Rehab campaign, visit www.chss.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/right-to-rehab/

Stroke survivor Linda Hamlin from Crosshouse in Ayrshire also shared the story of her rehabilitation journey.

Linda’s Story

Determination and a positive attitude have helped push Linda Hanlin on since she experienced a stroke almost a decade ago.

The 64-year-old– a Kindness Volunteer with CHSS and chair of the peer support group, Kilmarnock Young Stroke Group – is a prime example of how ongoing rehabilitation can improve mobility and dexterity, as well as encouraging better wellbeing and good mental health.

Linda, who lives in Crosshouse near Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, said: “I am supporting the Right to Rehab because I am living proof of how rehabilitation and ongoing physio can make a real difference to someone’s life.

“I am fortunate because I had two months of daily rehab in hospital after my stroke. But not everyone gets that or anywhere near that, and that’s simply not right.

“I am also lucky to have a positive attitude and I was pushy enough to put myself forward for various trials. Not everyone has the mindset for that, but that doesn’t mean they should miss out on any help that could be available.

“People who are learning to live with debilitating injuries or a lifelong condition need to be given practical help to manage and improve their condition. They also need a little bit of hope to hang on to that they can improve with ongoing support.

“A physio in the hospital gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever had. She told me to write a daily diary of what I’d managed to do that day. She said it would give me the impetus to push on and do better the next day. I didn’t think it would work, but it did. I was able to look and see the improvements I’d made, even the tiniest ones.

“It seems a little thing, but I couldn’t dry my hair after my stroke. I wasn’t able to hold the hairdryer in my left hand. But I can do that now. I couldn’t peg out a washing, but I can now.

“I appreciate the NHS doesn’t have the money to do everything that people need, but good rehab, available for everyone regardless of where they live, would save money in the long term.

“I dread to think where I would be right now without it. I really do believe rehab should be a human right.”

Linda, a mum to a son and daughter and gran to 11-month-old Autumn [1 in September], had a stroke in January 2014 at the age of 54. The stroke caused partial paralysis on her left side with her hand unable to grip properly.

In 2015, she took part in a research trial to see whether vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) could help improve the range of motion in her fingers. That trial saw an electronic device fitted in her chest and wired to her neck, stimulating signals from her brain to her hand.

Two years ago, Linda became one of the first stroke survivors to trial the pioneering stroke rehabilitation research facility at the University of Strathclyde, part-funded by CHSS.

The facility aims to use existing technology such as virtual reality headsets, treadmills and gaming controllers to help individuals do their own rehab. Its long-term aim is to develop accessible technology that would be available in leisure centres and gyms, making regular rehab a possibility for many patients who currently miss out.

Linda said: “The big thing for me was going on the treadmill because my balance wasn’t great. I had to be persuaded, but then I thought ‘time for the big girl pants’ and I got hooked up to the harness and went for it.

“Having some kind of facility like this in places across the country would be fantastic. No one should miss out on an opportunity for rehab because of their postcode.”

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