Ruth Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Christchurch Group (the UK’s leading provider of neurological rehabilitation services) reflects on a report published by Sue Ryder in March 2019 which estimated over 15,000 people with complex neurological conditions are living in general old-age care homes, and considers what 2020 might hold for these individuals and their families.
Last year, we saw many important developments in the neurological rehabilitation sector which are already making a difference to service users and employees alike. The launch of a new Rehabilitation Prescription, a crucial tool to document the rehab needs and care pathway for people with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), addressed some of the key concerns of healthcare professionals and ensured that assessments will take place within 48-72 hours of admission.
It was also heartening to see the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Acquired Brain Injury capture public attention and tirelessly campaign to address national gaps in funding and provision for patients in need of neurorehabilitation. I’m confident that the Group, headed up by Chris Bryant MP, will continue to ensure the delivery of neurorehabilitation services is high on this government’s agenda.
In the run up to the General Election in December 2019, all of the main political parties were unified in their agreement on the necessity for a fresh approach to social care, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying a “revolution” was needed. However, in a BBC interview conducted in January 2020, Johnson revealed that his “clear plan” for tackling the crisis could take up to five years to implement.
This simply isn’t good enough for the 15,000 people with neurological conditions like Multiple Sclerosis or Huntington ’s disease who have been abandoned in elderly care homes due to a lack of care provision in their area. These people are unable to receive the specialist care they so desperately need and are at risk of social isolation and poor mental health. I was appalled to read about the case of Nina Thair, a secondary school teacher from Brighton, who was transferred to an elderly care home after her MS symptoms worsened and had to sell her home to pay for the cost of her care. Ms Thair’s summary of the situation was spot on: “The system is full of people doing their absolute best in very challenging circumstances. But I should not have been there. I am a 46-year-old woman and I was in a bed that was meant for a dementia patient. There are just not the services available for working-age adults like me.”
With recent estimates by the brain injury charity Headway putting the number of individuals living with long term disabilities as a result of ABI at 500,000, it is clear that the UK’s need for effective, compassionate and well-regulated neurological care is not going away. I’m hugely proud of Christchurch Group’s multi-disciplinary team who provide bespoke rehabilitation plans to each of our clients – it’s this compassionate but most importantly clinically-led approach which means 86% of our service users are able to return home following a period of rehabilitation.
The emotional aspect of brain injury and neurological conditions is immense for clients and their families, so it was devastating to read in Sue Ryder’s report that over 500 people in these elderly care homes were in ‘out of area’ placements in non-neighbouring local authorities. At Christchurch Group we recognise the vital role families play in the recovery and mental wellbeing of clients, which is why we fund travel costs to maintain relationships and family units.
I hope 2020 brings with it more integration between health and social care as well as improved healthcare outcomes for neurorehabilitation patients. Amplifying the voices of one of the country’s most vulnerable patient population groups is a hugely rewarding part of my job – I sincerely hope that this year, their needs are listened to.