Specialist lawyer welcomes campaign for improved brain injury rehabilitation

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Specialist lawyer welcomes campaign for improved brain injury rehabilitation

2nd July 2012

The national brain injury charity UKABIF (United Kingdom Acquired Brain Injury Forum) has today launched a campaign aimed at highlighting the need for acute and early access to rehabilitation for ABI (Acquired brain injury) victims.

Deborah Johnson, an expert in brain injury legal claims at Fentons Solicitors LLP, has welcomed the campaign entitled, ‘Life after Brain Injury? Improve Services now,’ and stressed the need for the government to do more to improve the provision of specialist rehabilitation services.

“ABI is non-degenerative injury to the brain suffered after birth,” said Deborah, a partner and head of the serious and fatal incidents department at the firm. “ABI includes both traumatic brain injuries such as those caused by falls, assaults sports injuries and road traffic accidents as well as non-traumatic injuries such as those caused by strokes, tumours and some infectious diseases.

“The effects of acquired brain injuries can be physical, emotional, sensory or cognitive and can either be temporary or permanent, subtle or severe,” she added. “Some people may only be physically disabled but many will also suffer hidden disabilities that are less immediately obvious and can often lead to misunderstanding, relationship breakdowns and loss of employment.”

Approximately one million people live with the effects of an ABI in the UK and an estimated 150,000 people suffer some kind of brain injury each year. Serious brain injuries can leave victims with a range of symptoms and impairments, depending on the severity of the trauma and the parts of the brain affected, and can often mean they will never be able to work again.

“In such circumstances, it is essential that the costs of future care are taken into account when negotiating head and brain injury claims,” said Deborah. “Regardless of the type of head injury suffered the immediate priority should be securing the highest standard of medical care and rehabilitation.

“The majority of those who sustain serious head and brain injuries will require extensive specialist rehabilitation treatment and support both in hospital and the communityand while such treatment can help individuals regain former skills, it alone cannot guarantee future quality of life,” she added. “As such, compensation is often a lifeline for them and their families.”

Accurate and reliable data is currently limited regarding the provision of healthcare services for ABI in the UK. But in 2007 the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) estimated that annual acute hospital care costs for traumatic brain injuries alone top £1 billion. The costs of community care and rehabilitation are significantly more and in 2010 the cost of traumatic brain injuries in the UK reached an estimated £4.1 billion.

Amongst a host of measures highlighted in the UKABIF campaign are demands for brain injury victims to be assessed and nursed in a location appropriate to their needs and for health authorities to devise comprehensive care plans for patients leaving hospital to enable them to move as quickly as is appropriate through the system. In addition, campaigners are also calling for a national audit of rehabilitation to be carried out and for the collection and reporting of accurate data on incidence, prevalence and severity of newly acquired brain injuries to be made compulsory throughout a patient’s recovery period.

“Rehabilitation services unfortunately vary hugely around the UK with differences in the quality of treatment inevitably having a hugely detrimental effect upon victim’s lives,” said Deborah. “This is unacceptable and it is crucial that the government details exactly what action it proposes to take to improve the provision of effective and high quality rehabilitation services in the UK and ensure that such services are made uniformly available throughout the country.

“For the majority, long-term rehabilitation and community support services are required and will often include specialist accommodation services and the involvement of social services as well as family members/carers providing ongoing care and support,” she added. “Acute and early access to specialist neurological services is absolutely critical to ensure optimal recovery. The greatest degree of visible progress occurs in the first six months of rehabilitation and patients who are treated early have been shown to have significantly better social integration and emotional wellbeing than those receiving treatment later in recovery. This is not to say however that progress cannot also continue for many years post injury.”

Deborah said that early rehabilitation may help to reduce length of hospital stays, minimise re-admissions and reduce the costs to NHS resources following initial hospitalisation. “Rehabilitation should start as soon as possible following brain injuries to prevent complications,” she said. “Patients need to be given clearly defined recovery plans and ideally referred to local specialist neuro-rehabilitation services.

“Awareness of the needs of those living with an ABI needs to be raised and the government needs to do more to improve services and ensure that local NHS and social care organisations are given clear standards and quality requirements as well as support, evidence and shared knowledge regarding good practices and what care works best for patients.”

How can Fentons help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of serious head and brain injuries.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire

Read more: UKABIF