At a Parliamentary debate held on Tuesday 2 July, MPs urged the government to issue a national review into neuro-rehab resources throughout the UK. The debate was led by Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Acquired Brain Injury.
According to the National Clinical Audit carried out by the group, 94 per cent of people who received neuro-rehab were able to live independent lives, yet only 40 per cent of those assessed at a major trauma unit as needing neuro-rehab had access to it, with an estimated shortage of 330 beds across England and Wales.
MPs also highlighted the need for more resources for young people living with an acquired brain injury (ABI).
Every year 40,000 children and young people report to hospital with an ABI and statistics now indicate that every primary school in the UK has at least one child living with an ABI, many of which are undiagnosed. Despite this, paediatric neuro-rehab services are limited, with only one facility in England and Wales currently offering inpatient neuro-rehab and post-hospital discharge, which is run by the Children’s Trust in Surrey.
Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South, called for every region to have a paediatric neuro-rehab pathway.
Ms Greenwood said: “We need to address neuro-rehabilitation specifically for young people. An ABI affects their brain when it is still developing and can have a temporary or permanent effect on their functioning.
“Children have a long life ahead of them, so work done in the early years to improve their outcomes can have a long impact through their childhood and adulthood.”
She continued: “There is a desperate need for dedicated rehab beds, for follow-up clinics and for more neuropsychological support.”
Meanwhile, Labour MP for Blaydon, Liz Twist pointed out that this is not just a health issue, but an educational one, she said: “Schools have a great impact on the future development of the child. It is not just about what happens on their immediate return to school; it is also about how they continue to be supported and developed at school.
“There needs to be a real understanding of the specific needs of children, after all what happens in childhood seriously affects the life outcomes of young people.”
Labour MP for Burnley, Julie Cooper called for a national review of neuro-rehab, she said: “It is clear that a national review of neuro-rehabilitation is required, with particular reference to the service provision for children, to ensure that provision is adequate and consistent throughout the UK.”
In response, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Seema Kennedy, said: “It is encouraging that 94 per cent of patients accessing specialist rehab have evidence of functional improvement, but the report suggests that there is more work to be done to ensure that all patients who could benefit from specialist rehabilitation can access it.”
“I will discuss with NHS England what it is thinking, what it is doing on the audit and what the next steps are. We need to impress on it the importance of bed provision.”
She added: “I know that NHS England is aware that there is variability in the provision for children. Best practice guidance was published in 2016, but there is always more to be done.”
Concluding the debate, Mr Bryant called for the government to make it a priority to set up a three-year task force of ministers that will drive forward the issue of neuro-rehab, in all relevant departments.
He said: “It is almost cruel to save lives and not give people the quality of life that they deserve.”