Service redesign interventions to reduce waiting time for paediatric rehabilitation and therapy services: A systematic review of the literature

Health Soc Care Community. 2022 Nov;30(6):2057-2070. doi: 10.1111/hsc.13866. Epub 2022 Jun 18.


Despite well-documented benefits of rehabilitation and therapy services for children with disabilities, long waiting lists to access these services are common. There is a growing body of evidence, primarily from mixed or adult services, demonstrating that waiting times can be reduced through strategies that target wasteful processes and support services to keep up with demand. However, providers of rehabilitation and therapy services for children face additional complexities related to the long-term nature of many developmental conditions and the need to consider timing of interventions with developmental milestones and education transition points. This review aimed to synthesise available evidence on service redesign strategies in reducing waiting time for paediatric therapy services. We conducted a systematic review of studies conducted in outpatient paediatric rehabilitation or therapy settings, including physical and mental health services, evaluating a service redesign intervention and presenting comparative data on time to access care. Two reviewers independently applied inclusion criteria, assessed risk of bias and extracted data. Findings were analysed descriptively and the certainty of evidence was synthesised according to criteria for health service research. From 1934 studies identified, 33 met the criteria for inclusion. Interventions were categorised as rapid response strategies, process efficiency interventions or substitution strategies (using alternative providers in place of medical specialists). Reductions in waiting time were reported in 30 studies. Evidence is limited by study designs with high risk of bias, but this is mitigated by consistency of findings and large effect sizes. There is moderate-certainty evidence that service redesign strategies similar to those used in adult populations can be applied in paediatric rehabilitation and therapy settings to reduce waiting time.

Keywords: Paediatrics; access to care; community care; rehabilitation; service delivery and organisation.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Health Services*
  • Humans
  • Waiting Lists*