Local brain injury charity Headway Suffolk is needed now more than ever according to the results of a survey published by the national arm of the charity.
The survey, which explored the impact of COVID-19 on people affected by brain injury, found that more than half of brain injury survivors have lost access to rehabilitation services as a result of lockdown.
Early rehabilitation following brain injury can be crucial in helping survivors to regain a degree of independence and relearn lost skills, including walking and talking. But 57% of those who sustained their injuries within the past two years say their access to specialist treatment has been negatively impacted.
A further 64% of those living with the long-term effects of brain injury reported a deterioration in their mental health as a result of the measures implemented to control the spread of COVID-19, while almost two thirds say they now fear for their futures.
The key findings revealed:
- 57% of people who sustained a brain injury within the past two years reported that their rehabilitation has been negatively impacted
- Two thirds of respondents reported a negative impact on their psychological wellbeing
- 62% of respondents fear for their future
- 50% have lost access to vital support that helps them to cope
- 42% say their rehabilitation has been negatively impacted
Headway Suffolk says that the stark findings highlight the importance of ensuring those affected by brain injury are provided with appropriate physical, psychological and social rehabilitation and support.
Helen Fairweather, Chief Executive of Headway Suffolk, said: “The results of this study are deeply concerning. The first two years following a brain injury are very important in terms of a patient’s long-term prognosis and any delay to receiving specialist rehabilitation can impact their ability to lead an independent life in the future.
“Headway Suffolk is going to extraordinary lengths to ensure help remains available to vulnerable individuals and their families during the lockdown and has responded swiftly to the outbreak by tailoring remote services to help brain injury survivors cope with the situation. This has included homecare visits to free up hospital beds, a virtual hub so clients could stay in touch, food deliveries, virtual counselling, a helpline and Brainy Dogs videos and updates.
“However, with local authorities under increasing financial pressure, charities such as ours are facing an uphill battle to survive.
“Unless the government provides local authorities with adequate funding for community-based rehabilitation services, thousands of brain injury survivors and carers will either be left without support or be forced to rely on more costly state-funded care.”
Anna Leggett, a mother of three from Waldringfield near Woodbridge, has benefited from the services of Headway Suffolk to help her rebuild her life following a brain injury.
Anna was involved in an accident in November 2016 when a Land Rover drove into the back of her car on the A137, which made her head jolt hard back and forwards and caused a concussion/mild diffuse axonal injury (DAI).
Headway Suffolk supported Anna in her first year of recovery with its rehab and therapy services, including an Understanding Brain Injury course, counselling and Brainy Dogs visits. She later made a substantial donation to thank the charity.
Anna said: “Thank you so much to Headway Suffolk for the care and support they provided for me when I suffered a mild brain injury. It was fantastic and really helped my recovery.
“About nine months after my accident, Sophie (Brainy Dogs co-ordinator) paid us a couple of visits with Hope and Bee. This was a great pick me up for me and my three children – it really helped to take our minds off what had happened to me.
“We had so much fun with the dogs and were amazed at how clever they were. Chloe was also in the car with me when the accident happened and, although hasn’t been officially diagnosed, has displayed symptoms of suffering a concussion too.
“When my personal injury case was settled, I wanted to make a donation to Headway because I’m so grateful for what they provided during my first year of recovery.”
Many of the specialist rehabilitation and support services provided by Headway Suffolk are commissioned by the local authority.
Following the outbreak of the pandemic, only 4% of Directors of Adult Social Care from councils across England are confident that their budgets in 2020/21 are sufficient to meet statutory duties, according to a recent report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS).
The charity is also concerned by recent studies published in The Lancet Psychiatry suggesting COVID-19 could lead to an increase in the number of patients sustaining acquired brain injuries. Any such increase would put further pressure on Headway Suffolk ability to support those affected at a time when the charity is under such financial pressure.
Helen Fairweather (CEO) concluded: “If the specialist support and rehabilitation services we provide were not recommissioned, many vulnerable people living in our area would lose the vital support they rely on.
“Headway Suffolk needs to be here long after this pandemic, so we are able continue to improve the lives of people affected by brain injury.”
To find out more about you can help Headway Suffolk, visit www.headwaysuffolk.org.uk or donate at http://virginmoneygiving.com/charities/headwaysuffolk.