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Last Updated: Monday, 6 December, 2004, 00:33 GMT
Head injury services 'fall short'
Brain image
Brain injury can be caused by illness or accident
People with brain injuries are missing out on the support they need to enable them to return to work, experts say.

Just 10% of the support services needed to help those who are living with the long-term effects of injuries are available in the UK, they argue.

New guidance on vocational support is to be launched at a Royal College of Physicians conference on Monday.

The government is to consider services for brain injury patients in a National Service Framework, due out next year.

What these vocational guidelines are trying to do is to highlight the paucity of services
Professor Lynne Turner-Stokes, King's College Hospital

Around 125,000 people suffer some sort of brain injury which requires hospital admission in the UK each year.

Causes of brain damage range from suffering a stroke to being injured in road accidents.

Most people suffer only short-term effects, but around 10% experience serious long-term effects.

They may need to use a wheelchair as a result, or experience cognitive difficulties, which can affect their ability to do their job.

Another 20 to 30% suffer lasting effects which are more moderate, but which can still interfere with their ability to work to the same level as they did prior to their injury.

Once patients have undergone medical rehabilitation to aid their recovery, they should be given specialist support on how they can return to their job, or retrain, say experts.

'Better support'

Lynne Turner-Stokes, professor of rehabilitation at King's College Hospital, in London, said: "We know this kind of support is effective, and cost-effective.

"But only 10% of the estimated provision of services that would be required for people with brain injuries is available, as opposed to the US, where around 70% is available."

She added: "Even people with severe brain injury can go back to work."

The guidance document stresses the need for more specialist support workers.

But it also calls for Department for Work and Pensions advisers, based in Job Centres, to be better informed about the needs of people with brain injuries.

Professor Turner-Stokes added: "What these vocational guidelines are trying to do is to highlight the paucity of services, in terms of both general and specific support."

The expert advisory group to the National Service Framework on Long Term Care, of which Professor Turner-Stokes was deputy-chairwoman, has advised government ministers that the needs of patients with brain injuries are one of the key areas which the framework should address.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "Disability employment advisers are trained in a wide range of disability and health issues.

"Brain injuries are unique, with each person suffering from these injuries having different needs.

"DEAs work with them to give them the individual, tailored support they need."

Head injury care 'failing'
16 Sep 01 |  Health

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