On 2 December 2021 the Government announced that it would establish a cross-departmental strategy for Acquired Brain Injury (‘ABI’). The strategy is set to begin early this year with a call for evidence from healthcare professionals, people living with an ABI, their families and other stakeholders to express their views on what should be prioritised within the strategy.
The Government’s announcement came after years of campaigning by brain injury charities and those with lived experiences of ABIs. These efforts were magnified by Chris Bryant MP’s Private Member’s Bill, which called for the Government to make provision to meet the needs of adults and children with ABIs.
What is an ABI?
ABIs are injuries caused to the brain during the course of someone’s life. There are many ways that someone may develop an ABI. In the personal injury and clinical negligence team at Russell-Cooke, we often assist clients with ABIs caused by trauma to the head in road traffic accidents as well as strokes, tumours and brain haemorrhages.
Unfortunately, ABIs can develop or be worsened as a result of medical negligence, and this can occur when a patient has meningitis, encephalitis and conditions that lead to periods of hypoxia.
The impacts of ABIs are many and varied, and can range from someone experiencing short-term memory loss to life-changing symptoms like losing the ability to talk and retain information.
Why is an ABI strategy needed?
There are currently over 1.3 million people in the UK living with an ABI. It is a growing problem in this country, and results in nearly 1000 hospital admissions each day in the UK; an increase of 10% over the last decade.
Whilst the introduction of major trauma centres has improved the emergency care available to people suffering from an ABI, there are many areas of need that are lacking that require the attention of various different Government departments.
A general lack of understanding about the often subtle, long term changes that someone living with an ABI may experience can result in survivors being treated unfairly in educational, judicial and professional settings, and can prevent them from receiving the healthcare and social assistance that they need.
For instance young people with ABIs have an increased chance of developing behavioural problems that are connected with becoming involved in criminal activity. It is therefore no surprise that a disproportionate number of people in the criminal justice system have suffered from an ABI. Yet, unfortunately, ABI is often not considered when someone is interviewed by the police, goes to court, is sentenced for a crime, or whilst their rehabilitation is considered.
A joined-up strategy is needed to properly meet the needs of people living with an ABI. This strategy must be reflected and shared across multiple Government departments, including the Department for Work and Pensions, Department for Health and Social Care, and the Department for Education.
So, what’s next?
We will be keeping a close eye on developments once the call for evidence begins. It will be essential that the needs of those living with an ABI remain the central concern as the Government strategy is developed.
It is encouraging that Chris Bryant MP, who has worked alongside many ABI charities to get this issue onto the Government’s agenda, will be overseeing the development of the Government’s strategy together with Gillian Keegan, the Minister for Care and Mental Health.
As this new year brings with it the promise of a new Government strategy on ABI, there is hope that a better functioning system will develop to ensure that the needs of those who living with an ABI have their needs properly considered and met.