Spinal injury support key to future progress

17 October 2022

Andy Shaw, Partner and Head of Personal Injury and Medical Negligence at Higgs LLP, reflects on the findings of the latest Spinal Injuries Association annual survey.

Playing our part in helping to rebuild the lives of those who have suffered life changing injuries remains at the heart of the people-centric approach we take in the teams at Higgs LLP.

Our position as the Trusted Legal Partner of The Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) is testament to how passionate we are about making a real difference to those affected by spinal cord injuries.

The latest annual survey from the SIA – and subsequent What Matters Report – offers a real insight into the challenges of those facing such life-changing injuries.

The leading physical health concerns highlighted by the nearly 600 respondents was not, as I may have expected, pain management but bowel and bladder management.

As one respondent said: “General hospitals must train staff in the basic care of spinal cord injury.

“Bowel management is non-existent in a general hospital and this causes the most distress and danger to a spinal patient.”

Also highlighted was the lack of medical expertise in spinal cord injury outside of specialist centres, with those surveyed suggesting health care professionals in general hospital or care home settings have little experience or knowledge of caring for an individual with spinal injury.

Around mental health, 34% of people who suffered a spinal injury say they have suffered feelings of isolation and loneliness over the last 12 months.

While that figure is still way too high for comfort, there is some encouragement in the fact that the number had decreased from 38% in the previous year.

Here at Higgs LLP, we fully support the SIA’s push for access to psychological support at the point of injury and rehabilitation and ongoing counselling and mental health support should be offered to all after they have been discharged from hospital or specialist spinal centres.

In terms of daily life, issues remain clear for access, with 95 per cent of respondents reporting issues with access to the outdoors and countryside, parking, shop, hotels, leisure and public transport.

The SIA remain fully committed to improving the lives of those people who suffer with a spinal injury, not only increasing their specialist services, including counselling and occupational therapy, but also in calling for investment to be made available at all levels of the NHS to build knowledge and expertise in this area.

While it is impossible to alleviate all the barriers those who suffer spinal cord injuries face, we all have a duty to play our own part to help and support those affected.

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