Having set up in private practice 22 years ago, SP Therapy Services has watched a burgeoning sector grow around it. Here, founder Susan Pattison shares her views on its progress, and why community rehab has an ever-increasing role to play.
“We’re no longer a child who is complaining without a strong voice – we’ve grown up into the teenager who can articulate themselves.”
Susan Pattison’s analogy of the specialist neuro sector is an interesting one.
From setting up in business in the very early days of development for private practice 22 years ago, she has watched a thriving industry grow up around her.
“When I first set up in business, it was said many times I was like gold dust,” she recalls.
“Setting up on your own wasn’t common at all, particularly as a neurophysiotherapist. At that time, physio was about sprained ankles, not complex brain injury cases.
“When I was in my previous job, I was discharging people home to nothing, which is why I wanted to set up in business. I never set out to be a business woman, I just wanted to do right by my patients.
“I still remember my husband and family shaking their heads and saying I had six months to make a go of it, it was not widely done at all. It was a risk.”
As a trailblazer for private practitioners, Susan has gone on to build a thriving neurological physiotherapy and occupational therapy business, SP Therapy Services.
From its base in Bury, its nine-strong team covers Cheshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, South and West Yorkshire, supporting patients in both clinical and home settings.
“Now, it feels like my business is just a little goldfish in a huge pond, it’s a long way from the early days but these are actually really exciting times,” says Susan.
“We have grown up as a community and are making a lot of noise in the right ways. We have UKABIF banging on Parliament’s doors, helping to make neurorehab a hot topic, we’ve got BABICM setting standards for brain injury case managers, we’ve got Headway with their list of solicitors – and everyone is working together to move forward.
“I think the private sector has now come up and is a beacon of light for the NHS, we respond to the need and are there in support.
“A huge amount has changed over the past 22 years, and it is still changing. We have to continue to change, to work hard and progress together.”
And that need for ongoing change is something Susan feels passionately about – particularly the need for investment in community rehab, to support the work of the NHS post-discharge.
“If we are going to invest in saving a life, then we need to ensure a quality of life for that person. These people need rehab to have that,” she says.
“We can’t keep front-ending and need to invest in the longer-term care once they are discharged into the community. Rehabilitation has to happen in people’s communities as that’s where they live their lives.
“But investment in community rehab can’t be seen as a luxury, or something that is nice to have. It’s absolutely critical to people and families being allowed to rebuild their lives.
“With the impact of the pandemic, hospital waiting lists are going through the roof, and that is going to be pushed out into the community.
“But with such a strong private sector now, which has grown from the child into the teenager, as I put it, the support is there, it’s in place. And we’ll keep being that beacon for community rehab, continuing to call for the investment is needs.”
Music group launched to support BAME community
A music group established to support people living with dementia, memory loss and brain injury has received funding to launch an online project for the South Asian and BAME community.
Leicester Musical Memory Box (LMMBox) was founded in July 2018, and since that time has grown from one group in the city to six, providing interactive music sessions for people of all ages and backgrounds, including a group specific to the South Asian community.
The group – which has two staff members who are fluent in Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu – aims to provide the local community with a supportive network and a safe space to explore the unique challenges that a brain injury may bring to individuals, as well as their families and carers.
The new online music project is named ‘Geet Sangeet’ – translated as ‘Songs Sung Together’ – and will incorporate music and cultural references specific to the South Asian community, led by group leader Beena Masand from LMMBox.
Each session will begin with gentle exercises to warm up the body and brain, followed by singing and discussion about various music, songs, and media.
Attendees will also receive their own ‘musical memory box’ in a bag to help increase the interactivity of the sessions.
The project has received funding from the new Local Connections Fund, and is in collaboration with Headway Leicester.
Music has proven benefits for people with memory problems or a brain injury, including enabling people to connect with past experience and enabling freedom of expression, confidence and independence.
Attendance at the groups also helps to improve mood and reduce feelings of social isolation.
“We know we are providing a vital service to our members and receive enquiries regularly,” says Kyle Newman, group leader and co-director of LMMBox.
“In spite of the lockdown, we are thrilled to be able to once again provide a culturally specific group for the South Asian community.
“We also know that the group leader needs to come from that community and have the music and cultural knowledge to be able to engage participants effectively.”
“We are delighted to collaborate with LMMBox and reach out to more people across Leicester who have been affected by brain injury,” adds Mary Goulty, service manager at Headway Leicester.
“There is a clear need for a support service within the BAME community and that’s why we launched our BAME group last year, which is providing a vital lifeline to brain injury survivors we support and their families.”
To contact LMMBox, visit www.leicestermusicalmemorybox.co.uk
For support with brain injury in the Leicester community, visit www.headwayleicester.org.uk.
Visual impairment ‘may affect 1 in 30 children’
A brain-related visual impairment may affect one in every 30 children, new research has revealed.
In a study of Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI), which was thought to be rare, University of Bristol researchers have found it is more commonplace than previously accepted.
The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), investigated how many school-aged children may have undiagnosed brain-related vision problems.
Information was collected about 2,298 children aged five to 11 across 12 schools using teacher and parent questionnaires. They invited over ten per cent of the children (262 pupils) for a detailed assessment using validated tests to identify children with brain-related visual problems suggestive of CVI.
The team, from the University’s Medical School, found that based on their results, on average, every class of 30 children, would have one or two children with at least one brain-related vision problem.
They found no single problem was most common and the difficulties observed included problems with eye movements, visual field, recognition of objects and seeing things in clutter.
The team also found that children who were struggling with their learning and were already being given extra help at school, were more likely to have brain-related vision problems – four in every ten children with support for special educational needs had one or more brain-related vision problems, whilst for all children it was only about three in 100.
Researchers said they hope the study helps to raise awareness of CVI among parents and teachers, and can help them identify signs of the condition earlier.
“While this does not prove that these kind of vision problems are the cause of the difficulties with learning for any particular child, it does suggest that attending to children’s visual needs, such as making things bigger or less cluttered, might be a good place to start,” says Dr Cathy Williams, the study’s lead author and Associate Professor in Paediatric Ophthalmology at Bristol Medical School.
“While this does not prove that these kind of vision problems are the cause of the difficulties with learning for any particular child, it does suggest that attending to children’s visual needs, such as making things bigger or less cluttered, might be a good place to start.
“If interventions can work to reduce the impact of these problems on children’s learning, it might improve both educational and wellbeing outcomes for children.”
Brain-related vision problems include difficulties with moving the eyes, seeing things in their visual field, and recognising objects accurately and quickly.
While eye chart tests check how well a person can see the details of a letter or symbol from a specific distance, these visual acuity diagnostic assessments miss many children with CVI, whose acuity is normal or near-normal.
The findings of the study have been published in Developmental Medicine Neurology.
Medical centre becomes world’s first to adopt new tech
A medical centre has become the first in the world to adopt technology to alert them to a disabled person’s visit before they arrive, ensuring they are fully prepared for their arrival and can offer the best possible standards of customer service.
Charter Medical Centre in Hove has become the first of its kind to use the WelcoMe app, which makes use of pioneering technology to enable people with disabilities, including brain injuries and neurological conditions, to tell businesses and venues when they intend to visit their premises.
The app allows users to pre-warn businesses of any bespoke requirements they have, and also gives staff information about the person’s disability or condition, ensuring they are fully prepared for their arrival.
The installation of WelcoMe comes at a time when many disabled people have increased anxiety about leaving their homes amidst the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, with many doing so for the first time in many months to receive their vaccinations.
Through its adoption of WelcoME, Charter Medical Centre is building its additional support for patients living with long-term conditions even further, with the practice being a central part in the pioneering HERA (Healing Expressive and Recovery Arts) Project in Brighton.
The programme engages patients through creative arts and has delivered proven benefits in terms of easing pressure on NHS frontline resources, with an average 41 per cent reduction in the demand for GP appointments among those attending at least three HERA sessions.
The addition of a medical centre is a significant boost for the ongoing development of WelcoMe, which is rapidly expanding across England having secured clients including the Scottish Government and Diageo in its native Scotland.
Trials are planned in two Scottish hospitals as WelcoMe’s profile in the medical sector, and the profession’s commitment to embracing new technology to support patients, grows.
The app is the latest innovation from multi award-winning entrepreneur Gavin Neate, through his business Neatebox, which in 2011, created the world’s first disability-friendly pedestrian crossing. This later became a standalone business, Button, which enables users to press a range of buttons remotely, such as those to open automated doors.
“Even prior to the pandemic, it was common for patients to feel anxious about visiting the doctor, but with the isolation the pandemic has brought, we know that will have been exacerbated for many, and particularly those for whom their conditions means they have additional needs,” says Emma Drew, from the Robin Hood Health Foundation, which incorporates Charter Medical Centre as part of its portfolio.
“As lovely as our GPs and receptionists are, we are aware that anxiety exists, and we will always do everything we can to ensure our patients receive the best possible service we can give.
“Anything that enables people to come into our practice and be supported in the ways they need is very important to us. If someone has mobility problems, for example, and there is something we can do in advance of their arrival to help them, then we will do that.
“Through our adoption of WelcoMe, we will now be able to know about that, and be prepared before they walk through the door. We are proud to do things differently here, and we’re really pleased to be able to introduce this app to our patients.
“I think WelcoMe is something which, if it works in one practice, it’ll be adopted by many more, and it’s great to be at the forefront of that.”
Gavin Neate, whose inventions are inspired by his 18 years as a mobility instructor with Guide Dogs for the Blind, tells NR Times: “To add Charter Medical Centre to our partners really underlines the amazing potential there is for in-the-moment visitor-led and empowering interactions.
“Trials are also underway with The Golden Jubiliee Hospital in Glasgow and shortly Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
“We are proving it is possible to provide real time staff awareness of need, whilst reducing arrival anxiety in disabled visitors.”
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