The Rehabilitation Complexity Scale: A simple, practical tool to identify 'complex specialised' services in neurological rehabilitation

Lynne Turner-Stokes, Rebecca Disler, Heather Williams

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44 Citations (Scopus)


New commissioning arrangements in the NHS require the identification of 'complex specialised' (CS) services, as distinct from more 'general' or 'district specialist' (DS) rehabilitation services, to determine differential cost-tariffs. In this cross-sectional postal survey representing 49 inpatient neurological rehabilitation services in the UK, no clear service characteristics that distinguished CS services (n=20) from DS services (n=29) could be identified. On the other hand, the Rehabilitation Complexity Scale (RCS) demonstrated clear differences between the two types of service, in terms of the complexity of case mix and of the rehabilitation inputs provided. District specialist services reported a median RCS score of 7 (interquartile range (IQR) 6-8), whereas CS services reported higher scores (median 9 (IQR 7-11)) (Mann-Whitney z=-9.3, p<0.0001). Carrying a caseload in which 50% of patients had total RCS scores ≥9 appeared to be a sensitive and specific indicator of a CS service. This study represents the first reported use of the RCS. Feedback regarding the utility of the tool was generally favourable, although other more detailed instruments are likely to be required to distinguish complexity at the very top end of the scale. As NHS services tackle the challenges posed by Payment by Results for management of patients with complex needs, it is suggested that this approach may have application in other fields of clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-599
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Complexity
  • Diagnosis-related groups
  • Postal survey
  • Rehabilitation

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