Swiss Re welcomes UK’s first rehab standards

Swiss Re’s UK Life & Health claims clinical team has welcomed new government standards launched this May, designed to protect the quality of care for people needing clinical and vocational rehabilitation.

On 19 May 2009, standards designed to protect the quality of care for those who need clinical and vocational rehabilitation were launched by the UK Rehabilitation Council (UKRC). Funded by the Department of Work and Pensions, the new Rehabilitation Standards follow a year-long consultation with stakeholders.

There is a growing number of private firms offering rehabilitation services in the UK. Many are unregulated. UKRC Chair Catherine McLoughlin said the Rehabilitation Standards are a response to “widespread and repeated calls for improved quality controls on rehabilitation providers”.

She added that the new standards will help people who have no specialist knowledge of clinical and vocational rehabilitation to assess potential providers before they are appointed, and to monitor service delivery once care has started.

This is the first time the UK government has backed a set of quality assurance standards for rehabilitation services. The Rehabilitation Standards contain three sets of guidance: one for rehabilitation service providers, one for rehabilitation service purchasers and a guide for consumers of rehabilitation services.

Swiss Re’s Alison McLean – a specialist in occupational therapy – welcomes the new set of standards: “They provide a practical tool to help life insurers compare and select rehabilitation providers, and to ensure that the services received by the claimant are broadly consistent between each provider. We recommend that our clients only use rehabilitation providers who sign up to the new framework,” she said.

While the standards are good news for all parties involved, Swiss Re believes that the new set-up has its limitations:

  • as the standards are voluntary, they cannot be used to accredit or regulate service providers – although this may be a next step
  • they do not provide a tool to measure the effectiveness of rehabilitation services
  • there is no guidance to help users understand which specific skills, competencies or qualifications a provider should have in order to deliver specific rehabilitation services (for example, it does not outline what qualification, skills and competencies someone would need to conduct a worksite assessment)

Alison continued: “Overall, the new standards are a much-needed and positive move for the UK rehabilitation industry. They will be useful in assisting purchasers of rehabilitation services to choose and monitor service providers. They will help encourage providers to employ people with the right qualifications, and help to ensure that their work is ethical, appropriate and fairly priced.”

Further background

The Rehabilitation Standards comprise three documents:  

  • a guide for rehabilitation service providers, establishing the hallmarks expected of a good rehabilitation provider
  • a guide for rehabilitation service purchasers and
  • a guide for consumers of rehabilitation services

Both the purchaser and consumer guides set out the rights and obligations of all parties, and outline how to recognise the hallmarks of a good rehabilitation provider

The guidelines cover both health and vocational rehabilitation services, for example medical and vocational case management providers, physiotherapy services, psychological therapy providers, and Jobcentre Plus Condition Management Programme providers.

They do not replace established professional standards/codes of ethics for individuals, eg doctors, nurses, physios and occupational therapists.

The new standards enjoy support from various sectors including insurers, lawyers, civil servants, employers and various rehabilitation provider member groups. They also have the backing of Dame Carol Black (National Director for Health and Work). Checking whether a provider signs up to the standards can be done by simply asking the provider to confirm its position, and can be supported by requesting copies of its ‘Service Definition’ and ‘Service Competency’ documentation.

For more info…
Download the Rehabilitation Standards

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