Physiotherapy helps restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability. 

At the Royal Free London, physiotherapy is provided based on each patient’s individual needs. 

We believe and encourage the maintenance of good health for people of all ages, and help patients to manage their pain and prevent disease. We do this through education, awareness, empowerment, and active participation in their treatment.

Physiotherapists are instrumental in helping patients with physical and emotional problems have a good quality of life. 

Many people receive physiotherapy, for example, as a result of a medical condition, after an operation or an accident, or because of a neurological disorder. 

Patients are treated either as inpatients (those staying on wards in hospital or attending day surgery) or as outpatients (those visiting hospital clinics for treatment). 

Our physiotherapists specialise in treating a variety of different conditions, often working in teams with other specialists and therapists at our trust to achieve world class patient care.

The inpatient physiotherapy team works alongside doctors, nurses and many other health professionals within the multidisciplinary team. 

They work with many patients during their stay in hospital to encourage independence to return home as quickly as possible.

The inpatient physiotherapy service works within many specialties including: cardiovascular care, critical care, health services for elderly people, neuro-physiotherapy, oncology and palliative care, paediatrics (children’s physiotherapy), private practice, stroke rehabilitation, trauma and orthopaedics and vascular and amputee.

  • medical/health services for elderly people (HSEP) physiotherapy 
  • REACTT (rapid emergency and acute care therapy team) physiotherapy 
  • trauma and orthopaedics physiotherapy 
  • children and young people’s physiotherapy and dietetics service 
  • neuro physiotherapy 
  • respiratory physiotherapy 
  • pelvic health physiotherapy 
  • musculoskeletal (MSK) physiotherapy

  • elective orthopaedics physiotherapy

The outpatient physiotherapy team is a large multidisciplinary service that offers a wide range of treatment approaches to help manage painful conditions, restore movement and function, and improve quality of life for people with musculoskeletal problems. 

The service includes the musculoskeletal department, hand therapy, pelvic health and the pain management therapy team.

  • children and young people’s physiotherapy and dietetics service 
  • neuro-physiotherapy 
  • respiratory physiotherapy 
  • pelvic health physiotherapy 
  • musculoskeletal (MSK) outpatient physiotherapy 

  • children and young people’s physiotherapy and dietetics service 
  • pelvic health physiotherapy 
  • musculoskeletal (MSK) outpatient 

Outpatient referrals

At Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital, referrals are accepted only from Royal Free London consultants and via the NHS e-Referral Service.

The Royal Free Hospital accept referrals from Royal Free London consultants and some GP pathways.

Royal Free Hospital

Physiotherapists at the Royal Free Hospital work across a number of specialist areas:

Physiotherapists work with patients who have a cancer diagnosis who are having treatment to cure their cancer or treatment to manage this palliatively.

This may include advice on managing symptoms, exercise, returning home from hospital when someone has been unwell, or supporting someone with where they want to be at the end of their life.

The team works with people who are on the inpatient ward. They aim to support in mobilising and finding ways to support this — whether that’s an aid or exercises, making adaptations where needed, and suggesting any support to enable someone to live as fully as they can.

They work as part of a bigger team of people including the medical and nursing teams, palliative care teams and community services. 

Physiotherapy at Marie Curie Hospice, Hampstead

Our physiotherapists work holistically to focus on each patient’s goals, aiming to improve quality of life and ensure patients feel supported and comfortable at any stage of their illness.

From maintaining/improving strength, stamina or balance in the gym, to taking patients on the ward into the garden with a cup of tea, they focus on what is important to patients and their families, providing therapeutic support.

Focus is placed on early mobilisation and rehabilitation of critical care patients to aid functional recovery.  

Our team provide individualised daily rehabilitation programmes to patients, while also providing respiratory services to ensure optimal lung function. 

This is particularly important for patients requiring mechanical ventilation (life support).  

The team also provide a physiotherapy and speech and language therapy-led tracheostomy/ventilation weaning service, which delivers coordinated assessment and progression of plans to decrease the need for ventilation and tracheostomy use.

Physiotherapists work together with occupational therapists to assess patient mobility and function.

They may be involved, along with the wider team, in planning discharge and making onward referrals for ongoing rehabilitation.

Our sub acute management team (SAM) provide acute inpatient rehabilitation with a focus on neurology, while our complex management team (CMT) specialise in seeing patients with complex medical, physical and social needs requiring complex discharge planning.

Our inpatient team have a range of expertise, including managing some of the following:

  • patients requiring non-invasive ventilation (NIV)
  • patients requiring support with airways clearance, eg patients with bronchiectasis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) 
  • patients requiring support with managing breathlessness, eg asthma, interstitial lung disease, or pneumonia
  • patients requiring cough augmentation, eg neuromuscular conditions such as motor neurone disease
  • expert moving and handling skills 
  • improving mobility and function via rehabilitation, exercise prescription, provision of walking aids and other adjuncts to mobility
  • discharge planning and close liaison with external agencies, eg community therapies, community COPD teams

We have a small outpatient physiotherapy service which is a Royal Free Hospital consultant-only referral service for the following:

  • bronchiectasis (confirmed diagnosis via CT — half a day a week) 
  • breathing pattern disorders — for patients presenting with refractory and complex breathlessness (two half days a week)

The orthopaedic physiotherapy team provide holistic care to patients who are admitted to the hospital after a traumatic accident, or patients who are undergoing planned surgery.

A team of physiotherapists and therapy assistants work across inpatient wards to provide high-quality, patient-centred, post-operative care.

They work in close collaboration with other members of the ward team, patients/carers, and plan for a safe and timely discharge from the hospital.

Physiotherapists assist and empower patients to regain the pre-injury level of function and mobility during the early phase after a surgical management. 

The physiotherapy intervention involves a thorough and comprehensive assessment of the patient to formulate a rehabilitation plan. This process also includes individual goal setting to achieve realistic and meaningful patient outcomes. 

The treatment often includes individual advice on safe mobilisation with a walking aid, exercise prescription and re-evaluation of therapy intervention to maximise the patient’s capacity for gaining functional independence. 

Physiotherapists also have specialist skills to fit, adjust and advise on the use of various braces, slings, splints, and surgical appliances. 

At the time of discharge from the hospital, physiotherapists will also organise onward referral of the patient to services based in the community or the outpatient physiotherapy department for ongoing rehabilitation.

The vascular physiotherapy team work alongside the vascular consultant team treating patients with ongoing vascular conditions including, but not limited to, ischemic lower limbs, foot ulcers and amputations. 

They assess and treat vascular patients in the acute setting, aiming to restore physical function and work towards improving mobility. 

Physiotherapy is of high importance in managing chronic pain, maintaining strength and function, increasing cardiovascular endurance, and promoting a better quality of life. 

Using a patient-centred and inter-disciplinary approach, the team ensure patients maintain their independence and find new and adapted ways of engaging with activities of daily living. 

They follow the British Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in limb Absence Rehabilitation (BACPAR) guidelines for amputees on their ward and pride themselves in maintaining a specialist standard of care. 

Patients have the opportunity to progress to our specialised outpatient prosthetic rehabilitation service at the Royal Free Hospital.

The team's other specialities are:

  • rapid emergency and acute medicine 
  • kidney services and urology
  • liver and digestive health
  • hand therapy and plastic surgery

  • musculoskeletal outpatients service
  • pelvic health 
  • hand therapy
  • physiotherapy pain management