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UK to get first National Rehabilitation Centre

The £105m facility will be a focal point for rehab nationally, in a model that could then be rolled out

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The UK will have its first National Rehabilitation Centre, to deliver additional and much-needed new levels of support to patients following life-changing injury or illness, following approval for the £105million plans. 

Work on the site is now underway to create a 70-bed, purpose-built facility to help up the ante in rehabilitation by acting as a national hub and focal point in the delivery of rehab. 

The specialist NHS centre will be built on the Stanford Hall Rehabilitation Estate, already home to the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) which opened in 2018, and which has become known for its life-changing work among service personnel. 

Combining patient care with research, innovation and training, the centre will help to pioneer innovative new approaches to rehabilitation, including new technologies, with real time feedback from clinicians and patients. 

It is hoped this clinical model can now be rolled out across the country.

The NRC – targeted for completion by the end of 2024 – will share some specialist facilities with the DMRC such as the hydrotherapy pool, gait lab and CAREN (Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment) which is a high-tech treadmill device to help people to learn to walk again.

The rationale for co-locating both the Defence facility and the NHS facility side-by-side on the same site is to facilitate sharing of expertise in ways which have never been possible or achieved before.

Under the new arrangement, specialist knowledge and skills that exist within Defence medicine because of the nature of wounding and injury in conflict can be used for the benefit of NHS patients. Expertise from NHS clinical leads and practitioners will similarly transfer in the other direction.  

This sharing concept is at the heart of the proposition and will result in improvement across all aspects of clinical rehabilitation.

Care will be delivered by staff from Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH), and the academic partnership is led by the University of Nottingham and Loughborough University.

Similar to the investment in UK Major Trauma Centres – of which NUH is one – which has transformed the survival rates of people who have suffered serious injury, the objective through the NRC is to get more people back to the maximum quality of life after injury or illness. 

From the outset, the NRC concept was that it would become a national hub which could over time lead to similar rehabilitation centres across the NHS, mirroring the trauma network.

Current return to fitness and return to work rates in the UK lag behind other European nations – as well as being approximately half the level achieved within the Armed Forces.

Miriam Duffy, NRC programme director at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said:

“The National Rehabilitation Centre will transform how we provide clinical rehabilitation in this country.  

“This long overdue centre will push the boundaries of rehabilitation for the next generation and bring real impact in terms of helping people to realise their full potential following injury or illness.”

The NRC will be both a regional and a national and international facility. It will primarily treat patients from the East Midlands region, replacing and upgrading existing services in Nottingham, setting the blueprint for the roll-out of a regional model across the country. 

It will also undertake teaching and research, as well as commercial research and development, in ways that are national and internationally significant.

Natalie Forrest, senior responsible officer for the New Hospital Programme, said: “This marks a highly significant and exciting day for investment into our New Hospital Programme and for the creation of a UK first facility of its type – a National Rehabilitation Centre. The benefits to NHS patients will be substantial and life-changing.” 

Also fundamental to the extraordinary opportunity that the NRC represents is the potential for the consortium, already in existence, of 22 Higher Education Institutions with the Universities of Nottingham and Loughborough as the leads.  This partnership, which will bring research, innovation, education and training directly alongside clinical rehabilitation, is one of the things that will make the NRC unique.

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