Remote/virtual Physiotherapy – the link providing a life line to the forgotten’

Freedom for Wheels the charity was started when its founder found she needed to fight for the things she never had before disability. It was about being able to reach further than even the professionals felt some disabilities could and it was about doing this for as many others as we could. On top of this it was about giving disabled people a voice and show that sport, the chances for rehab and the equipment needed should not be inaccessible.
Freedoms founder reached higher and kept getting knock backs but it shows that we need to be stronger and we need to have the strength to push on when even professionals feel they don’t think you can achieve. She has and is doing this through sport and Physiotherapy and is beginning to get results. But it’s very much about others understanding this, giving chances and those chances even being offered, with facilities accommodating disabled individuals. It’s about her work with her physiotherapist and the specialist work he is able to provide for both physical and mental well-being.
We were all hit at the beginning of the year with this pandemic. Things locked down and for disabled and Clinically medical vulnerable it shut earlier, sports stopped, physiotherapists could not longer work as they were with many redeployed. We have been locked down longer with stricter requirements and stuck to this but the downfall is we lost our voice, as well as our access to therapy and many felt no one from the government was listening or support this sector We were not included in updates at briefings or in getting PPE for those caring in the community at home or indeed in the testing initially. As a charity we knew from the start that this was going to be difficult for everyone but for many it was going to be even tougher. This Pandemic unfortunately hit many harder.
We as a charity started to prepare care packages sending out dementia muffs and autistic muffs to help with isolation and anxiety. We sent out over 1000 of these and then we started to support getting grocery delivery slots where many couldn’t and medication when drugs were not being sent out. We saw many other charities working on supplying food and felt this was not our goal but beginning to hear so many tell us that they could not get the support they had in their care and that their Physiotherapy and sport had ceased. We began to hear more and more that pain was increasing and that they felt that little was being targeted to help them. On top of this things were beginning to change for the general public. Golf was allowed, tennis was allowed people were allowed to meet in parks and gardens with social distance but nothing was being offered they felt to support them. They were advised to stay in and not go out but little in place to bridge the gaps. We were hearing from parents of children and young adults that they were not able to access the physio from their Education and Health Care (EHC) plans.
People were asking for any help we may be able to offer and they were asking us to be a voice for them also. Our founder knew how important Physiotherapy/activity was as she was herself in a strict regime before lockdown and how quickly her recovery would diminish. We all saw the show Wicks and other professionals start offering online sport at high levels We applied for lottery and sport funding but it was decided over a charity Trustee virtual meeting that we could not wait longer and therefore started to begin the process of putting together a package of free remote Physiotherapy sessions. It was then that Freedom for wheels contacted and started to pull this process together with Response Physiotherapy. We wanted to get this right and we wanted to get it sorted as quickly as we could. One of the trustees made contact with the MD at Response - Martin Grieve who said of the project:
“Over the previous few months, as a company we had our fair share of ups and downs, just like everyone was having. One of the ups came from a call I received.
It was later on within the lockdown at a particularly fortuitous time, it was one of those days when nothing seemed to be going the way I intended. I got a call out of the blue, unusually I don’t take calls from a number I didn't recognise. The person on the other end started talking about this relatively new charity and how it's aim is to help disabled people in an area that we were qualified to help. An area of support that was lacking during the pandemic, it was to enable people to gather some independence by supporting free physio during lockdown within their homes as well as being a face during very lonely times. We would be an important link in the chain and they wondered whether we would be interested in being part of it all.
Now, I may be biased as I run a physio company, but I'm also very passionate about people being able to have movement, that I know can also assist with pain management, so it struck a note from the off. To say I was hooked from the start is an understatement, within a matter of days and minimal fuss the formalities had been sorted. We we're off an had our first few calls to book in”. Martin and his team set this up with Freedom in a matter of 5 days. It was launched and we started to get calls. People receive initially 6 agreed sessions with the first being an hour and they can also get access to equipment should they need it like resistance bands. All the costs are covered by the charity and all the individual has to do is submit their disability badge or pip statement on application with Response to qualify. Response started treating individuals and the charity started to get testimonials that were heartfelt and extremely moving. One of the physiotherapists that started working, Declan, immediately built a good rapport with his new disabled clients. He wrote: “ Through the last month I have seen some new clients pop into my diary from Freedom for Wheels. Upon learning what Freedom for Wheels was and what their main objective is, I thought it was a great idea and I was keen to get going with these clients. Upon talking to the clients for the first time through our video session, it was clear that they would be perfect clients for physio, because they were keen to give the exercises a go and progress towards their individual goals. Talking more about their goals, it has been amazing how varied and how different each individual’s targets are; this has meant it has been very enjoyable and interesting for myself. It has also kept me on my toes seeing people with different conditions or modifying exercises so the person could get the most out of the exercise or advice. It is fair to say I have learnt a lot in the last month that I was not very aware of before, and I have increased my knowledge base and tool box of techniques as well through the sessions. I am really happy that I have been able to help and make a difference for these individuals (well that’s what they have told me anyway!) especially during this current time where there have been restrictions on their usual activities and the loss of the work they were doing. It is so important that for many work continues. I am looking forward to continuing with these clients and helping them achieve what they want to do and enable them to improve. At the same time, I am looking forward to developing myself as a Physiotherapist as the relationship continues to evolve between Freedom for Wheels and Response Physiotherapy.” We at Freedom want to continue as much as we can to support individuals within these very difficult times. We will continue to apply and try and fundraise for more sessions to be offered and hopefully if successful we will offer this out further afield to more and more. Clients have been treated and comments have been plentiful including this one: ‘ Since lockdown started, My physio has not been provided, this was a regular appointment to give me the chance to live independently. It had worried me greatly, especially because I don’t want to end up back in hospital again. I was concerned as I have specific needs and I’m Shielding, I’m alone and I’m lonely and had increased anxiety, and feeling that I could not go on, pain was increased and I struggled to do simple things. My general fitness levels are nowhere near what they would be normally. I saw the advert first on the disability forum and thought it too good to be true then it was Commented on and it said it was funded physio via Freedom for Wheels and I found it on Their Facebook page, it was provided by Response Physiotherapy but when I looked them up there was nothing mentioned so I did worry if it was real but I choose to call anyway. Response seemed a little confused and unsure to start and I felt a bit like I had made a fool of Myself but they called me back and were really lovely. I met the criteria and I was granted 5 sessions. The physio I had been allocated, I had an instant rapport with, which makes a huge difference as I do struggle and there was no judgement. I was worried about doing it online but it was great and really effective. The guy was great and the first session flew, it gave me confidence again and it does help and I can’t wait for the next session. It has given me hope where I was struggling and it has given me at least one person in 13 weeks that showed some caring. I am so grateful to Freedom for Wheels for this support. Anon ‘ ‘I have been fortunate enough to receive physio sessions with Declan. I currently am a full time wheelchair athlete and have found these sessions extremely beneficial and specific to my requirements and demands as an athlete. In the short space I have worked with Declan I have developed a very good rapport with him. I would like to take this opportunity to thank freedom for wheels for the chance to participate in these sessions. Martin’ And lastly ‘ Since lockdown started, O's physio has not been provided by local authority, something that worried me greatly, especially because O's hands needed specific exercises. We are Shielding, and his fitness has decreased. He would normally be self propelling around school, as well as the additional sporting activities he does like basketball and tennis, in his chair, these are not available during lockdown. We were just left. We saw the advert for funded physio via Freedom for Wheels on their Facebook page, provided by Response Physio. We rang Response, and O was granted 6 sessions. The physio had an instant rapport with O, which makes a huge difference in getting O to want to follow a programme of exercises. His physio has incorporated the equipment we already had, and O has just completed his second session. I am so grateful to Freedom for this support. It is making a difference to what is a very challenging time.’ The testimonials have shown how important this work is and the area it was lacking. Martin MD of Response finishes by saying “ we have now treated a number of new patients and the physio's simply love it. To say it works all round is putting it mildly, our physio's really enjoy helping out and the clients are getting a real benefit. Some of the feedback is so heartfelt it really does bring a smile and a tear in equal measure” Freedom for wheels wanted to help in any way we could and we felt this was important. We will continue to do this during this pandemic and the recovery stage as funds permit. We have seen how important it is to be proactive in many areas whilst championing accessibility and activity for disabled individuals. It’s all about inclusion in whatever form it has to be currently whilst supporting individuals mental and physical health. Achieving a goal, however small, is empowering. Exercise in whatever form will boost self-confidence and as research says many disabled individuals would like to be more active but don’t get the opportunities. We will, as a charity, fight on as best we can to secure more funding Please contact Response on 0330 024 1377 if you wish to book one of these sessions and feel free to message the charity with any questions on