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Head Injury Statistics Show a Rise in Acquired Brain Injuries in the UK

Head Injury Statistics Show a Rise in Acquired Brain Injuries in the UK

The effects of a head injury are not always obvious and those not working directly with individuals suffering the consequences of brain injury may be surprised by the prevalence in our society of such injuries taking place.

In 2015, Headway, the brain injury association, published a report containing statistical information on the frequency of head injury, or rather acquired brain injury (“ABI”). ABI is a general term to cover a whole host of injuries to the brain, that is those sustained since birth. Consequently, the term ABI excludes degenerative conditions, examples given being multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease. The most common forms of ABI are traumatic brain injury and stroke. Indeed, these are the two categories of cases that I deal with, acting on behalf of those who have sustained strokes or suffering the impact of a traumatic brain injury. Not all cases of traumatic brain injury and strokes are actionable, ie entitling a person to compensation, but a great many are.

The reason why people are in need of compensation is because of the devastating impact such conditions can have on their lives, perhaps preventing them from working and, or, causing such changes in their personality that they require intensive care from others, either in their own home, or in a residential care environment.

Even when an individual may be able to claim compensation, they will still need to rely on the statutory services, both in the short and long term. Therefore, the evidence gathered by Headway, is not only informative at a numbers level, but should also now be acted upon by policy makers, so they can ensure there are adequate resources in place to care and rehabilitate those who have suffered with a brain injury.

As Professor Alan Tennant points out, the Headway report “provides up-to-date evidence with which to approach commissioners, and to request funding for rehabilitation and support services in areas of greatest need.” A fundamental review of brain injury rehabilitation services is required as Professor Alan Tennant argues that the National Service Framework for Long Term Conditions (2005) has expired and “failed to make significant changes to health and social care….”

The data collated by Headway is based on Hospital Episode Statistics in England and similar data collection points in other parts of the UK. The statistics are numerically shocking, but put in context it should be appreciated that not all those suffering a head injury and attending hospital will develop long term symptoms. Many of those admitted to hospital will not experience cognitive, behavioural or physical effects. However, were such injuries do manifest, they can have devastating consequences, hence Professor Tennant’s concern, which I share. My experience is that neurological rehabilitation services have experienced funding cuts, so that we see more seriously injury patients being discharged into the community, earlier than otherwise would have been the case, or without the same level of community support that would have been available in years past.

Turning to the figures, there were 348,934 admissions to hospital with acquired brain injury in 2013/14. This represents a 10% increase in admissions over a 10 year period. This increase does not necessarily mean that more people are sustaining a brain injury; it could be that the population has a higher level of awareness and is responding accordingly. By way of example, there have been a number of sportspersons sustaining head injuries, resulting in publicity around the action taken in response.

Head injuries are on the increase

What is alarming, from a brain injury solicitor’s perspective, is the number of head injury admissions. We know from earlier research that the most common group of individuals to sustain a head injury, are young men, with alcohol also being a contributing factor. I recall a consultant telling me some years ago that he was seeing an increase in female patients. I wondered at the time (and still do), whether this is a result of changing gender behaviour, so that we see, by example, young women seeking to match their male counterparts in the ability to consume large quantities of alcohol. Female admissions have risen by 24% since 2005/6. However, it is the still the case that men are pushing the barriers of behaviour, with men being 1.6 times more likely to be admitted for a head injury.

Strokes are experienced by a mature adult group. The causes of stroke arise from a different form of lifestyle behaviour. However, even here, the statistics record an increase of 9% for UK stroke admissions, since 2005/6. The annual figure for 2013/14 was 130,551.

Treatment for stroke or potential stroke victims has improved over the years, but such are the cuts in NHS funding that there is a risk that not all patients are receiving the treatment that may improve their outcome. Those working in the NHS do a fantastic job under very difficult circumstances. My clients will sometimes criticise their experiences in hospital but I point out that the individuals treating and caring for them are doing their utmost and more, to care for all patients: they, that is patients and NHS staff, are let down by the politicians who fail to provide adequate funding, so we really can have best health service in the world.

Of course, the cuts in NHS funding puts pressure on other sources of brain injury support, ie the voluntary sector. This is highlighted by Headway’s own branches. In a survey, Headway found that 57% of their local groups felt changes to local authority care support had impacted on their ability to provide their own support services. 85% of the branches were concerned about their own survival, with 89% of them having to dip into their reserves to deliver vital services.

In conclusion, we are seeing more people being admitted to hospital for acquired brain injury. Many will not suffer long term harm, but a significant number will. Without adequate funds directed to the essential services of brain injury rehabilitation the outcome for individuals may be bleak. The consequence is that those receiving inadequate support will require greater welfare support in the long term than otherwise may have been the case. Proper investment will save the nation huge sums over a patient’s lifetime. Good rehabilitation will result in a person leading an independent life, as well as making a contribution to the economy. Inadequate funding will have a negative impact on everyone.

How to Make a Compensation Claim For a Head or Brain Injury

If you want to enquire about making a head or brain injury compensation claim, please one of our experienced head and brain injury claims solicitors on 01895 207835 or 01895 207295. Alternatively, you can send an email with your name and contact information and brief details as to the nature of the accident/clinical negligence and the injuries sustained to PI@ibblaw.co.uk and one of our team will be able to help you.