West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has backed a new report that could save the NHS £5billion a year through its recommendations of wide-ranging reform of the way brain injury is treated in hospitals, schools and sports grounds in West Lancashire.

With a hospital admission for a brain injury occurring every 90 seconds on average across the UK, and with 139 admissions last year locally, MP Rosie joined the All Party Parliamentary Group on Acquired Brain Injury today to launch their new report, ‘Time for Change’ in Parliament.

The report recommends a range of substantial reforms to improve outcomes for people suffering from brain injuries in West Lancashire, improve attainment in schools, reduce reoffending and save money for the government. Recommendations in the report and from the group include:

* For the first time, all teachers, teaching assistants and school sports coaches in West Lancashire and nationally to have mandatory training on how to spot, treat and manage brain injuries/concussion in children.

* With prevalence rates for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as high as 60% among prisoners, brain injury screening should be automatically done for everyone entering the criminal justice system and, if identified, appropriate interventions planned and implemented by a trained team.

* All benefits assessors should be trained to understand the problems that affect individuals with an Acquired Brain Injury and re-assessment for welfare benefits for people with Acquired Brain Injury should only take place every five years.

* ‘Rehabilitation Prescriptions’ to be made available for the first time to all individuals with an Acquired Brain Injury on discharge from acute care, held by the individual with copies made available to their GP.

* Current NHS provision is failing the clinical needs of athletes with Sports Related Concussion. The government should act to ensure all sports coaches have mandatory training on how to spot, treat and manage brain injuries, and the NHS and professional clinical bodies must urgently work with sporting groups and athletes to improve knowledge and treatment for amateur and professional sportspeople.

The report was written after four round tables in Parliament with experts and individuals living with brain injuries about the issues with ABI in the UK. They found that 1.3 million people live with the effects of brain injury at a cost to the UK economy of £15 billion per annum, and that having a head injury doubles an individual’s risk of later mental health problems, even if the person had no prior history of mental ill-health. Despite this, there is currently no centralised recording of the average cost of treating an acquired brain injury, the funding set aside for it or the number of prescriptions given, and no mandatory training for teachers, benefits assessors, sports teachers or prison officers on what it is or how to manage it.

Acquired brain injuries are defined as any injury to the brain which has occurred following birth. It includes Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), such as those caused by trauma e.g. from a road traffic accident, sporting concussion and non-TBIs related to other medical conditions, e.g. meningitis, stroke, brain tumour etc.

West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper said:
“Brain injury is a hidden epidemic and too many people in West Lancashire just aren’t getting the help and support they need.

“This needs action now. If the government listen to this report we can improve lives and outcomes for people in West Lancashire and save the taxpayer money.”

· If implemented, the recommendations in the report would represent a step change in how brain injury would be understood and treated in this country. With regards to the recommendations highlighted above, the current situation is:

* There is no mandatory training for teachers on what brain injuries and concussion are, what problems they might lead to for children or how they can be best managed. The report calls for the first time for all teachers, teaching assistants and school sports coaches to have mandatory training on how to spot, treat and manage brain injuries in children.

* ‘Rehabilitation Prescriptions’ are only available where there is a ‘major trauma centre’ so if a patient doesn’t happen to be treated in one they are not eligible for one, and in many instances those eligible are still not given one. For the first time, the report and the MPs backing it call for all individuals with an acquired brain injury anywhere in the UK on discharge from acute care to be able to access a ‘Rehabilitation Prescription’ and to be able to access the care they need for them.

* Despite prevalence rates for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as high as 60% among prisoners, there is currently no nationwide compulsory brain injury screening upon entering the criminal justice system and no mandatory training for prison officers or governors on how ABI might impact on prisoners or their behaviour and how it might be managed.

* Over 90% of those with ABI surveyed for the report agreed that DWP benefit assessors did not have good insight into the challenges, symptoms and impact of ABI, yet there is currently no mandatory training for benefits assessors on what ABI is or how it might affect people with regards to work.

* Whilst professional sports governing bodies are now beginning to develop concussion policies, there is no national duty for sports coaches to receive as part of their training information about how to spot, treat and manage brain injuries/concussion (a type of brain injury). NHS provision for the clinical needs of athletes with Sports Related Concussion is poor, with few specialists and many governing bodies not enforcing their own concussion policies.

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