15,000 people with complex neurological conditions living in elderly care homes-another postcode lottery?

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Richard McKenzie, CEO, Christchurch Group

Richard McKenzie, CEO, Christchurch Group – leading provider of award-winning outcomes-led neurorehabilitation services designed to improve the function, reduce symptoms, and enhance the well-being of patients with acquired brain injury (ABI), spinal injury and other neurological conditions – discusses the plight of the 15,000 people with complex neurological conditions living in general old age care homes and what can be done to resolve this issue. 

A recent report published by Neurological Alliance member charity Sue Ryder revealed that more than 15,000 people in England with complex neurological conditions such as head injury, motor neurone disease, MS, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease, are living in old people’s nursing homes. This is shocking news and yet another case of the UK’s ‘postcode lottery’ in which access to health services and medical treatments is determined by the area of the country in which individuals live.

Is it not ethically wrong to hide an articulate young person with Motor Neurone Disease trapped in a dying body or a middle aged man with a brain injury acquired in a road traffic accident in a setting inappropriate to their age and without a care plan or rehabilitation prescription? The psychological impact of these neurological conditions is immense and the likelihood of an individual experiencing anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts in such environments is highly likely. I strongly feel that this is simply just not fair.

So what can be done?

I believe the solution is three-fold.

The first and most important step is to ensure that suitable care plans for all people with neurological conditions are put in place so that they receive the support they require to stay in the loving and supportive environment of their own home for as long as possible. 

In the case of ABI it is heartening to see MP Chris Bryant and his All-Party Parliamentary Group on Acquired Brain Injury (APPG on ABI) campaigning relentlessly for the Rehabilitation Prescription. Once passed this will mean that within 48-72 hours of a patient’s admission to hospital assessments will take place detailing the care items to be developed with the involvement of the individual and/or their family/carers, and administered by specialist health care professionals in rehabilitation. It’s definitely a move in the right direction.

Taking steps to remove discrimination in the level of care people receive nationwide is also crucial. Isn’t it time NHS funding was re-centralised to ensure that provision for patient rehabilitation is spread fairly and equally across the country?

Joined up thinking between health and social services is also ‘a must’. Better outcomes for patients and potential savings to the public purse could be made if individual departments refrained from making short term decisions determined by their limited budgets and joined forces with other services to implement more cost-effective long term solutions to better benefit patients and society at large.

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