Efficiency of specialist rehabilitation in reducing dependency and costs of continuing care for adults with complex acquired brain injuries

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To examine functional outcomes from a rehabilitation programme and to compare two methods for evaluating cost efficiency of rehabilitation in patients with severe complex disability.


Subjects and setting: Two hundred and ninety seven consecutive admissions to a specialist inpatient rehabilitation unit following severe acquired brain injury.


Retrospective analysis of routinely collected data, including the Functional Independence Measure (FIM), Barthel Index, and Northwick Park Dependency Score and Care Needs Assessment (NPDS/NPCNA), which provides a generic estimation of dependency, care hours. and weekly cost of continuing care in the community. Patients were analysed in three groups according to dependency on admission: “low” (NPDS<10 (n = 83)); “medium” (NPDS10–24 (n = 112)); “high” (NPDS >24 (n = 102)).


Mean length of stay (LOS) 112 (SD 66) days. All groups showed significant reduction in dependency between admission and discharge on all measures (paired t tests: p<0.001). Mean reduction in “weekly cost of care” was greatest in the high dependency group at £639 per week (95% CI 488 to 789)), as compared with the medium (£323/week (95% CI 217 to 428)), and low (£111/week (95% CI 42 to 179)) dependency groups. Despite their longer LOS, time taken to offset the initial cost of rehabilitation was only 16.3 months in the high dependency group, compared with 21.5 months (medium dependency) and 38.8 months (low dependency). FIM efficiency (FIM gain/LOS) appeared greatest in the medium dependency group (0.25), compared with the low (0.17) and high (0.16) dependency groups.


The NPDS/NPCNA detected changes in dependency potentially associated with substantial savings in the cost of ongoing care, especially in high dependency patients. Floor effects in responsiveness of the FIM may lead to underestimation of efficiency of rehabilitation in higher dependency patients.

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