Research and innovation

Rehabilitation has a strong and growing evidence base.

  • Systematic reviews by Cochrane and others provide evidence for the effectiveness of rehabilitation across a broad spectrum of conditions, including acquired brain injury, stroke, progressive neurological conditions, chronic arthropathy and back pain, and in the care of older people.
  • There is also good evidence for the cost-efficiency of rehabilitation. Improved independence, with resulting savings in the ongoing cost of care, is shown to offset the cost of a rehabilitation programme within just a few months.
  • In fact, when taken as a whole, the evidence for benefits and cost-efficiency is probably stronger for rehabilitation than for most other areas of clinical practice, delivering real cost savings to society and the NHS.

Despite a wide breadth of research into clinical, engineering and social aspects of rehabilitation, it remains a small academic field in the UK, with just a handful of academic posts. In a political climate that values patient choice and cost-efficiency, this is an area that is ripe for development.

Currently, there are three full academic chairs of RM in the UK.

  • At King’s College London – the Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation is the world’s first academic institute dedicated to palliative care and rehabilitation. The programme focuses on health services research in rehabilitation, including evaluating and improving services, development of person-centred outcome and assessment measures, and symptom management – including pain, depression and spasticity. It is responsible for the UK Rehabilitation Outcomes Collaborative (UKROC) national clinical database for specialist rehabilitation services (see Maintaining quality). With over 30,000 recorded episodes, UKROC provides a rich source of data for analysis, to address questions such as which patients benefit most from different types of rehabilitation.
  • At the University of Warwick Medical School – Social Science and Systems in Health – the academic chair and professor of neurological rehabilitation has a particular research interest in rehabilitation processes (care pathways and goal settings), interventions (vocational rehabilitation and robotics) and service evaluations.
  • At the University of Leeds, Faculty of Medicine and Health – the Charterhouse professor and director of the Charterhouse Rehabilitation Technologies Laboratory has a particular interest in restorative rehabilitation technology and psychometrics, applying modern measurement approaches to develop robust health outcomes.