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Sunday, 15 April, 2001, 00:01 GMT 01:01 UK
Brain injury care 'inadequate'
Rehabilitation is important
People with brain injuries are let down by the health service, says a report by MPs.

The Commons' Health Select Committee is calling for an urgent increase in the allocation of resources for people who have survived brain injury.

The MPs say there should be an active collaboration between the NHS and the independent sector to improve services.

Victims often do not receive the recognition and help they need

Health Select Committee
Their report highlights a critical lack of services and available resources for brain injury survivors and their carers.

In total it flags up 27 areas of serious concern, and makes a series of recommendations. These include:

  • care plans should be developed for every brain injured patient after discharge from hospital
  • resources to be allocated to community support and care networks to provide ongoing rehabilitative care
  • specialist staff should be trained to care for individual brain injury survivors
  • there should be a clear distinction between brain injury and other neurological and mental health conditions
  • all health authorities should be required to collect data on head injury
At the extreme end of the scale, the consequences of head injury are death, persistent vegetative state or severe physical and mental disablement.

However, the large majority of people who suffer from head injuries are more likely to suffer more subtle difficulties with memory, understanding, judgement and controlling their emotions.

The report highlights how these "hidden" symptoms can cause problems for more than just the injured person - and what a vital role effective long-term rehabilitation and support has to play.

"The family and friends of the individual, especially where they take on the main caring roles are placed under immense emotional - and often financial - strain as they struggle to look after and relate to a person who may be very different from the one they used to know.

"Where family support is not available, or gives way under the emotional burden, statutory services are often inadequate, leading to family break-ups, divorces and the head-injured person becoming homeless or even entering the criminal justice system.

"Such is the lack of understanding of head injury, and the "hidden" nature of its symptoms, that victims often do not receive the recognition and help they need."

Increasing problem

Kevin Curley, Chief Executive of Headway, the charity for survivors of head injury, said that the problems associated with brain injury were highly specific.

He said: "There has been an increase in the number of people surviving incidences such as major road traffic accidents but unfortunately this has meant an increase in pressure on healthcare services to care for survivors."

Dr Michael Oddy is director of neurorehabilitation services at Unsted Park, a hospital within the Priory Group which specialises in providing care for people with brain injury.

He said "For too long head injury has remained a silent epidemic.

"The transition from hospital into rehabilitation and back home should be planned across all healthcare agencies so the patient's recovery is swifter.

"As the Select Committee recognised, there are currently insufficient resources to meet the variety of needs of the head injured person and their family."

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