A man undergoes rehabilitation from his major trauma injuries with the help of a rehabilitation specialist illustrating the hidden victims of the covid pandemic

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The Hidden Victims of Covid-19

Martin Usher argues that the need for increased access to rehabilitation services has never been more important as the NHS recovers from the impact of the pandemic.

Arguably, the most underreported victims of the Covid-19 pandemic are people that have sustained major trauma injuries. They are the hidden victims. Because of the NHS backlog, this group of individuals will have been left waiting for urgent rehabilitation services, such as physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, or psychological therapy. This is a cause for concern as these therapies make a substantial difference to the success of survivors’ recoveries and, ultimately, to the quality of their day-to-day lives in the future.

The scale of the task now faced by the NHS cannot be underestimated, nor can the impact upon the hidden victims of Covid-19, and it is time to act to support the survivors of major trauma. In this regard, increased access to private rehabilitation for people that have sustained major trauma in appropriate circumstances would serve to relieve some of the pressure on the NHS.

Given the current financial pressures and burden that the NHS faces, we must be proactive in thinking about ways to help alleviate these issues, which range from long waiting times to the stress and anxiety of NHS staff. It would be a welcome approach if the insurance industry could make a positive contribution to supporting the NHS at this difficult time by voluntarily funding private rehabilitation for people who have sustained major trauma. The UK insurance sector is a £35 billion industry and is more than capable of absorbing a higher proportion of the costs of major trauma treatment than it has done to date. Indeed, it has been estimated that motor insurers have saved more than £4 billion as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic[1]. There is therefore no doubt that the motor insurance industry could make a significant contribution in support of our NHS and show the nation that we really are all in this together.

Another easy way of freeing up funds for rehabilitation services is through reform to the Injury Cost Recovery system for those in need of major trauma treatment. The Injury Cost Recovery (ICR) system was set up to enable NHS bodies to recover some of the cost of treatment for individuals who had suffered injuries where another party was entitled to pay compensation. One pressing problem with the Injury Cost Recovery system as it stands is that the funding has not kept up with the growing costs of medical care. A conservative estimate shows that the cap is costing taxpayers and our health service at least £200 million per year. At a time of national crisis where adequate healthcare funding is absolutely vital, it is reasonable to look to those that have the funds, such as insurance companies, and the systems in place to support our NHS, to review how we can provide adequate financial support for the NHS and rehabilitation services.

Unfortunately, 2021 will likely be a hard year for everyone, not least the NHS and our most vulnerable members of society. Yet, there is hope on the horizon with the UK’s ongoing vaccination programme. While that is underway, attention must be focused on providing funding and support for the NHS and, specifically, for rehabilitation services that have long been underfunded and under acknowledged. It is clear that rehabilitation services need serious assistance, and we cannot afford to delay this any longer.

The full version of this article was published in Clinical Services Journal in April 2021. To access the article click here.


[1] HelloSafe. (2020) Car insurance savings UK 2020 [internet]. Available at: https://hello-safe.co.uk/media/car-insurance-savings-2020

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