Institute of Neuroscience

NHS rehabilitation for children after brain injury

How should the NHS deliver rehabilitation services for children after acquired brain injury?

Acquired brain injury (ABI) is an umbrella term for sudden injury to a previously healthy brain. Typical causes include infections such as meningitis, stroke, trauma (road traffic accidents, falls, gunshot) and brain tumours. The number of children with disability resulting from ABI have increased rapidly as more children survive severe illnesses, regrettably sometimes at the cost of significant brain injury. Unfortunately current services do not fully serve the needs of children after ABI and their families. Responsiveness to suddenly-acquired and rapidly changing needs is a challenge in the short term; as is later provision for the needs of children with idiosyncratic combinations of difficulties alongside preserved abilities.

For children, the consequences of ABI extend over many years of remaining life. Effective rehabilitation is essential to maximising the recovery and development of children after ABI, but its content, processes and outcomes remain poorly understood. Content and processes of rehabilitation vary widely around the UK: it is unclear whether different centres are achieving different outcomes, something that will be obscured by the variety of severity and types of ABI of the children being treated.

This project will produce evidence to guide NHS commissioning of rehabilitation services for children after ABI. There will be a review of what makes a high quality rehabilitation service, a study of families’ and professionals’ views and experiences, and an evaluation of current service models. The Programme will investigate whether children make better recoveries in some centres than others after similar injuries, and whether this is because of differences in delivered rehabilitation or other factors the NHS can address. The Programme will develop an agreed language for the description of rehabilitation treatments, and a mathematical model of predicted outcomes for a given injury. This will allow recognition of rehabilitation interventions that deliver better than expected recoveries.

Newcastle University staff and students linked to the project:

  • Dr Rob Forsyth
  • Dr Mark Pearce
  • Prof Allan Colver
  • Dr Niina Kolehmainen

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