Addressing the barriers to accessing therapy services in rural and remote areas

23 June 2014

Purpose: Throughout the world, people with a disability who live in rural and remote areas experience difficulty accessing a range of community-based services including speech-, physioand occupational therapy. This paper draws on information gathered from carers and adults with a disability living in a rural area in New South Wales (NSW), Australia to determine the extent to which people living in rural areas may receive a person-centred therapy service. Methods: As part of a larger study in rural NSW into the delivery of therapy services, focus groups and individual interviews were conducted with 78 carers and 10 adults with a disability. Data were analysed using constant comparison and thematic analysis. Results: Three related themes emerged: (i) travelling to access therapy; (ii) waiting a long time to get therapy; and (iii) limited access to therapy past early childhood. The themes overlaid the problems of recruiting and retaining sufficient therapists to work in rural areas. Conclusions: Community-based rehabilitation principles offer possibilities for increasing person-centred therapy services. We propose a person-centred and place-based approach that builds on existing service delivery models in the region and involves four inter-related strategies aimed at reducing travel and waiting times and with applicability across the life course.