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Right Arrow Spinal staff work with charities to get patients home quicker
18 September 2013 at 11:15
Patients with spinal injuries are beginning rehabilitation sooner and returning home quicker thanks to innovative work with two charities in Southport.

The project is the brainchild of staff at the North West Regional Spinal Injuries Centre based at Southport and Formby District General Hospital.

More than 40 people saw a short film about the project at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust’s annual general meeting in Southport on Tuesday (Sept 17).

“Advances in medicine mean patients who might once have died from a spinal cord injury will survive,” said centre director Dr Clive Glass. “Up to 130 people a year now need our specialist help which is a challenge with only 43 beds when some might require months of rehabilitation as an inpatient.”

Staff began working with two charities to find a solution, focussing on finding accommodation for patients who still needed specialist treatment and support from the centre, but not necessarily a hospital bed.

Vitalise, a national charity providing respite care for disabled people, runs Sandpipers on Southport’s Marine Lake, and a local charity, the Spinal Unit Action Group, operates 6 Weld Road in the town providing short and long-term care for people with spinal cord injury.

Imelda Weir, Spinal Outreach Service Manager at the centre, said: “The patients who now stay with Sandpipers and Weld Road are still our patients and are treated by spinal medical, nursing and therapy staff from the centre. By maintaining an ‘open bed’ within the centre they can immediately return if a problem arises.

“It’s brilliant for patients because they get the clinical care they need from spinal injuries centre staff and all the benefits of community living without the need to be in hospital.”

Richard, a patient who has experienced both types of care, said: “Everything in the hospital is done for you almost automatically but, having had the experience here [in the community], I feel that I am capable of directing people about my care when I get home.”

Debbie, another patient, said: “You’re a patient in hospital – it can’t be any other way – but you’re a person out there. It makes you think and makes you independent.”

The impact of the changes has been dramatic too for newly-injured patients waiting for admission to the spinal injuries centre. The wait from referral to admission has dropped by more than a third and, thanks to the confidence the project gives patients, they are now going home 17 days earlier on average than before.

Dr Glass said: “We’ve seen dramatic improvements in perceptions of control and patients’ overall quality of life and their mood. There are no negatives.”

Ed Fletcher, the chair of Southport Spinal Injuries Patient Group, added: “The combination of NHS and third sector has worked beautifully. It ought be held out as a beacon of how other people can do it.”

Issued by Tony Ellis, marketing and communications manager
Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust

Telephone 01704 704494

Notes for editors

1. The film shown at the Trust annual general meeting can be viewed on YouTube.

2. Care of people with spinal cord injuries began in the North West in 1944 but it was only in 1947 that a group of patients were transferred to the then Promenade Hospital in Southport, establishling one of the first generation of spinal injuries centres in the country.

The North West Spinal Injuries Centre admits people from across England’s North West, parts of North Wales and the Isle of Man with a total catchment of more than 7m people. Annually, we treat around 150 inpatients with 43 residents at any one time. The average age of patients is 48. A quarter of patients are victims of motor vehicle injuries while a further 10% have been hurt in falls. Sports injuries account for a further 9% with diving the leading cause.

3. SUAG was established in 1973 to support the patients and ex-patients of the North West Regional Spinal Injuries Centre in Southport. The charity’s activities include providing and maintaining the long and short-term residential home at 6 Weld Road Southport; running various social events for patients and their visitors at the spinal injury centre on a monthly basis; funding accommodation and travel for selected relatives; and, providing volunteer drivers for patients.

4. Vitalise has been providing short breaks for disabled people and carers at accessible centres in the UK since 1963. Sandpipers in Southport is one of three centres operated by the charity.

5. Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust manages Southport and Formby District General Hospital and Ormskirk and District General Hospital, and is responsible for many community healthcare services for adults in Southport, Formby and West Lancashire. We have a budget of £181m and employ 3,300 staff. In 2012/13, our staff saw 247,605 outpatients; treated 60,635 inpatients; supported the birth of 3,043 babies; and attended to 98,163 urgent care cases.