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Acquired Brain Injury for Children and Young People - A Multi Disciplinary Approach?

As a Solicitor specialising in clinical negligence claims I frequently work with children and young people who have an acquired brain injury.  In layman’s terms an acquired brain injury (ABI) is brain damage caused by events occurring after birth. 

ABI can arise in any number of ways to include physical trauma from an accident or a non traumatic injury such as a stroke, brain tumour or infection to give a few examples.

In a child or young person an ABI is inevitably devastating and has massive implications for development and well being. 

Common sense dictates that it is important for any victim of brain injury to receive medical treatment and care which includes not only hospital treatment but by the time of discharge a clear care pathway from hospital to GP and Primary Care services with the involvement of children’s services to ensure there is continuity of care and ongoing support and rehabilitation.

Whilst many experience first class medical care and support in the community following discharge, there are others who simply don’t and seem to fall through the net.

Still too frequently there is a complete failure to adopt and provide a multi-disciplinary approach and co-ordinate care.  Families struggle to access all appropriate support from local authorities with educational needs; needs for adapted accommodation, aids and equipment and respite care together with primary care services to include mental health services and the more  specialist services such as physiotherapy, speech and language therapy. 

In Northern Ireland the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) has produced an action plan for victims of acquired brain injury to ensure service improvement and to co-ordinate action in order to improve outcomes for patients, their families and carers.  It is a well written document and sets out a clear action plan.  The remainder of the UK is in my view not so lucky.  The Department of Health (assisted by the campaign group “Every Child Matters”) has produced best practice guidance for ABI but it has no statutory force and does not appear to be adhered to in many cases.  There is also a national service framework document for long term conditions which was written in 2005.  It is a pity the HSCB recommendations do not apply to the rest of the UK.

I am told that the pathways are being refined as I write – let’s hope so.  A clear pathway fully implemented is essential to protect the interests of those children in our society whose young lives are devastated by an acquired brain injury.