Updated: Apr 3
Described as the invisible epidemic, brain injury made the topic of parliamentary debate this week.
Acquired brain injury (ABI) is an injury that take place after birth in an otherwise health brain. It includes traumatic brain injuries such as those caused by road traffic accidents, falls or assaults and non-traumatic brain injuries related to illnesses or medical conditions including meningitis, stroke or brain tumours. MPs accepted that whilst it is difficult to accurately identify how many people are affected by brain injury, it is thought that there are around 1.3 million living with the consequences of acquired brain injury in the UK. Each year half a million attend A&E for traumatic brain injury. This equates to 1500 a day, one every minute.
Since the introduction of the UK’s major trauma system, 22 regional trauma centres have been developed to provide care for those with the most serious brain injuries. As a result, statistics demonstrate that patients have 30% increase of surviving severe injuries and overall the network has saved 600 lives so far. With more people surviving brain injury it is important that the UK also ensures appropriate rehabilitation is available to assist people in rebuilding their lives in order to live a fulfilling and meaningful existence. Often described as the hidden disability brain injury can lead to a range of long term consequences including:-
1. Physical difficulties such as fatigue, impaired mobility weakness/paralysis and difficulties with speech
Cognitive symptoms such as memory difficulties, impaired reasoning, difficulties with planning and organisation, information overwhelm, reduced problem solving, impulsivity and
Emotional effect such as personality changes such as depression anxiety and anger.
Symptoms give rise to a large ripple effect impacting individuals ability to return to school, return to work and family relationships.
There is supportive evidence that quality rehabilitation improves the outcome of patients and saves money in the long-term. Rehabilitation enables people to live their lives, fulfil their full potential and optimise their contribution to their family, their community and society as a whole and therefore the UK needs to adopt its approach to ensure that everyone has access to best support available. Unfortunately this is presently not the case and access to rehabilitation remains somewhat of a postcode lottery.
In order to address this MPs have called for a cross-departmental approach in facing this challenge and suggested a range of recommendations including but not limited to the following:-
A more coordinated approach within the health and social care sectors in addressing brain injury.
A greater understand of brain injury and its consequences for the public, teachers, benefit advisors and A&E staff need to be trained on recognising brain injury.
Additional support in schools for children who have sustained a brain injury.
Greater information to be given to individuals on discharge from hospital.
A guarantee that anyone with a brain injury is given a rehabilitation prescription before leaving hospital.
An increase in community rehabilitation.
Face to face benefit assessments for individuals with brain injury.
As a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, I am pleased to see that this topic has made its way onto the agenda. The importance of rehabilitation cannot be underestimated in helping people to move forward after injury and I hope that this will be the first of many debates leading to fair access for all.