Does weekend physiotherapy make a difference on a rehab ward? Stakeholder perceptions in a rural hospital setting

Ms Robyn Stanning1, Ms Siobhan Finnegan1, Professor Gail Whiteford2

1MNCLHD NSW Health, Kempsey, Australia, 2Charles Sturt University, Port Macquarie, Australia

Evidence demonstrates that allied health interventions within inpatient rehabilitation settings are effective for improving quality of life, functional independence, whilst positively impacting hospital outcomes. There are limited studies within public rehabilitation wards that have explored key stakeholder perspectives before and after the implementation of a weekend physiotherapy service. This project aims to capture the “value add” of the implementation of a trial weekend physiotherapy service, by investigating staff and patient perspectives in a rehabilitation ward in a rural public New South Wales (NSW) hospital.

Data was collected within a mixed method evaluative approach. Qualitative data was generated through semi-structured staff interviews. Quantitative data was obtained through pre and post staff and patient surveys, patient length of stay (LOS), Functional Independent Measure (FIM) and number of falls.

Findings from thematic analysis of the qualitative data generated five key themes relating to positive impacts of the weekend physiotherapy input, including an unexpected theme of “Being More United as a Ward”. By the end of the trial, staff perceptions positively changed, with 100% of staff strongly agreeing that the physiotherapy service was a value add. Preliminary results suggest that patients who received this service had an overall FIM improvement of 21%, compared to 18% in the pre-pilot cohort.

This evaluation demonstrated that a trial weekend physiotherapy service within a rural rehabilitation ward produced positive staff and patient perceptions of the value-add of this service. In order to justify and embed this service within ‘usual care’ provision in rehabilitation wards, future studies should focus on evaluating the impact of enhanced weekend physiotherapy provision on patient outcomes that lead to hospital cost-saving benefits including reduced length of stay and improved patient flow. Undertaking this research in rural settings where movement to and from rehabilitation settings is more problematic is a priority.


Robyn Stanning is the Physiotherapy Head of Department at Kempsey District Hospital, Mid North Coast Local Health District of NSW Health. She has an interest in health services management and leadership within rural communities. Her current areas of focus include employee capability development, value based healthcare approach to service evaluations to improve equity of access, and narrowing the translation gap between research and rural practice.

Siobhan Finnegan is a clinical physiotherapist working in rural and remote health in the public sector, with a passion for improving health outcomes for communities in rural areas. Siobhan also an interest in promoting the generalist nature of skills required for allied health clinicians that work in rural/remote locations.

Professor Gail Whiteford holds the role of Conjoint Professor of Allied Health and Community Wellbeing between Mid North Coast Local Health District of NSW Health and Charles Sturt University. She has been a Research Centre Director, Pro Vice Chancellor and was Chair of Occupational Therapy Australia Research Foundation. She has 3 books and over 100 publications and has been a keynote speaker in 11 countries. Her work has been acknowledged through national and international awards.

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