Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commisioning Group

Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commisioning Group

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NHS launches new brain injury service for Gateshead and Sunderland

People who suffer brain injuries will benefit from improved support from this month, as a new NHS service opens for patients in Gateshead and Sunderland. Jointly commissioned by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in the two areas and provided by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, it will offer specialist assessment, rehabilitation and community support for patients.

The change will see existing services in Gateshead expand to help patients with mild to moderate injuries as well as more severe cases, and extend services into Sunderland for the first time.

Dr Steve Kirk, Clinical Director at NHS Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Brain injuries can affect people in many different ways, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Our well established service for more complex and severe cases will continue, and will now be extended to help people with mild to moderate injuries to recover well, keep their jobs and maintain family roles.”

The two CCGs have invested an additional £1million per year in the service, which was designed with help from local clinicians, service providers, voluntary organisations, patients and families.

Dr Valerie Taylor, Clinical Vice Chair of NHS Sunderland CCG, said: “Around 50 people every week in Sunderland and Gateshead attend hospital having suffered a head injury, with several developing a brain injury which can vary in severity. This new service will be of real benefit to this group of people.

“This is a new service in Sunderland, and by working in conjunction with Gateshead we have been able to build on their service’s strong track record and ensure a good quality service for our patients.”

The service will offer assessment, advice and specialist rehabilitation, helping people with ongoing problems to regain their independence and functions as far as possible, as well as adapting to any long-term challenges from their injury.

The news has been welcomed by patients and their families, who helped to design the new service.

Joanne Larner of Blaydon relied on the Gateshead brain injury service after her husband Mark, then 39, was severely injured in 2011. Mark, a building yard foreman, suffered from memory problems, depression and terrible headaches after coming home from hospital, and sadly passed away last year.

Joanne said: “The Acquired Brain Injury team are very close to my heart – without them, Mark would have had no quality of life at all. Our life changed dramatically overnight, but they helped him learn to walk, to write and even used lego to help him understand colours again.

“They really went above and beyond to help with things like benefits, books to help explain things to our son, and a limited return to work so that he could feel useful again.”

The effects of brain injury vary widely, depending on the type, location and severity of injury. Common symptoms include physical and sensory difficulties, problems with emotional control, communication, memory, and the ability to manage day to day tasks that were previously considered easy.

Dr Philippa Griffiths, Neuropsychologist and Clinical Lead for the community service hosted by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, said: “With the help of colleagues in existing services (social care, health, private, education and charitable agencies) we hope to build on our networks to support, treat and help patients and their families at a time when they feel it’s needed.

“This will build on the service already in place in Gateshead, with patients in both areas benefiting from work to support early discharge from hospital, reduce the number of readmissions, and help schools, colleges and employers to support patients return to work or to activities that are important to them.

“Anyone can contact us to ask for input or advice and if people need to come back for further support or treatment later on, they’ll be very welcome to do so.”

The team will work with local services and voluntary organisations to deliver a full range of rehabilitation services, including family and peer support. The aim is to provide specialist advice, support and rehabilitation for as many people as possible, as well as helping GPs to support patients effectively. The team will be formally inviting referrals from GPs, emergency departments, hospitals and the community from this month.