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Community and mental health services for Southampton, Portsmouth and parts of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.


Transforming mental health care through physiotherapy

Rachael Blake, AHP Team Lead and Physiotherapist
Rachael Blake, AHP Team Lead and Physiotherapist

As a young teenager, Rachael Blake, AHP Team Lead and Physiotherapist for Solent NHS Trust, discovered her passion for physiotherapy during a visit to a physiotherapist. From that moment on, her path was clear, and her journey into the field of physiotherapy began.


With an undergraduate education and early career, Rachael found her calling within Medicine for Older People, where she discovered her passion for working with older adults. However, it wasn't until she ventured into Older People's Mental Health (OPMH) that she truly found her niche. Over a decade later, what started as a rotational position has unfolded into a static role, solidifying her commitment to mental health care through physiotherapy.


In her role, Rachael has launched numerous initiatives aimed at revolutionising physiotherapy within mental health settings. These include standardising outcome measures to highlight the importance of maintaining mobility among OPMH inpatients, establishing a national peer support network for mental health physiotherapists, and significantly increasing physiotherapy services within Adult Mental Health (AMH) wards.


One of Rachael's most impactful initiatives has been her collaboration with local gyms and exercise schemes. By establishing regular exercise groups and enabling access to gym facilities within AMH wards, she has brought physical activity to the forefront of mental health care. This successful pilot program has demonstrated the benefits of integrating dedicated exercise professionals into mental health settings, ultimately improving the physical and mental well-being of service users.


Rachael's role as a bridge between physical and mental health is paramount. Through her biopsychosocial approach to healthcare, she addresses the link between physical and mental well-being, ensuring that underlying physical health issues are not overlooked during mental health crises. Her advocacy for physical activity as a means to address health inequalities and reduce mortality gaps among individuals with severe mental illness reflects the importance of the role. Furthermore, due to diagnostic overshadowing, sometimes physical health issues can be missed, physiotherapists are crucial in the identification of these and can support patients to address their needs.


"It's about recognising that physical and mental health go hand in hand," says Rachael. "By promoting physical activity and advocating for improved access to exercise, we can make significant strides in enhancing the overall well-being of individuals with mental illness."


Rachael's dedication to transforming mental health care through physiotherapy serves as an inspiration to her colleagues and peers nationwide. As she continues to innovate and advocate for change, her impact on mental health services and the lives of service users is outstanding.


Rachael's contributions have earned her recognition as a finalist for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight (HIOW) AHP Leadership award. The winner will be announced on March 7 2024.

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