On Wednesday 2nd November, Neurorehabilitation at Psicon (NAP) hosted a conference on Advances and Challenges in Neurorehabilitation at their Canterbury premises. The event was attended by brain injury case managers, solicitors, and neurorehabilitation professionals from across South East England, and drew on the contributions of four keynote speakers – Stephen Ruffle and Nicki Donnelly from robotics company ReWalk, Jo Clark-Wilson, Managing Partner at brain injury case management firm Head First, and Caroline Klage, a solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp who specialises in brain injury compensation claims.
Mr LJ Conradie, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist and Head of NAP, opened the conference by briefly discussing a few points central to NAP’s philosophy of community neurological rehabilitation. These included the importance of early intervention following the period of acute care in hospital, the necessity of a systemic approach extending beyond the patient to their family, their home and their workplace, as well as to other professionals involved in the case, and the clinical benefits in neurological rehabilitation of working in an interdisciplinary team.
The first keynote speaker, Stephen Ruffle, presented ReWalk’s robotic exoskeleton, a highly innovative technology which enables paraplegic individuals to stand, walk, turn, and even climb or descend stairs. The technology works through the integration of height-adjustable brace supports, motion sensors, and a computer-based control system operated by the ReWalker. Nicki Donnelly, a former police officer who lost the use of her legs following an injury sustained in the line of duty, demonstrated the device and took questions from the audience. She stressed that ReWalk technology has changed her life – not only in terms of her improved mobility, but in the wider and interconnected terms of her psychological, physical, and social wellbeing. A good illustration of this, as discussed by Ms. Donnelly, is that her daughter now mentions how she likes to be able to “look up” to her mum: it was clear that the rehabilitation of one feature of the family unit (i.e. on a mother’s physical ability to stand) had in this way reflected in reciprocal positive feeling across the family. Further to this, Mr Ruffle also discussed the positive repercussions of standing and walking for a range of health factors, including bowel and bladder function, bone strength, body mass, and diabetes and heart disease prevention.
The second speaker was Jo Clark-Wilson, who gave the case manager’s perspective on challenges in neurorehabilitation. At its core, she suggested that the task of all brain injury case managers is to pull together the different and sometimes conflicting demands of different professionals involved in community neurological rehabilitation. Because of this, Ms. Clark-Wilson said that all professionals involved in a brain injury case have a duty to create realistic and meaningful goals in neurological rehabilitation programmes for their clients, with proposed interventions based on strong evidence the most likely to be deemed cost-effective and therefore be implemented. Ms. Clark-Wilson also mentioned the challenges brain injury case managers face in recruiting an appropriately balanced community neurological rehabilitation team, and mentioned the difficulties inherent – in terms of coordination, leadership, and communication – in appointing different professionals based in different services across multiple locations.
The morning’s final speaker was Caroline Klage, who spoke on the challenges faced by solicitors in delivering optimal community neurological rehabilitation for clients following brain injury. She said that her primary aim in any case is always to secure an early admission of liability from the defendant, as community neurological rehabilitation only becomes possible with access to the interim payment that this secures. Ms. Klage discussed the importance of a systemic and family-oriented approach to rehabilitation, stressing that the focus of any programme should always be on the creation of an environment in which the client and his or her loved ones can make progress and flourish. To this end, Ms. Klage highlighted the necessity for a strong multidisciplinary team with good intercommunications and clear, detailed clinical notes.
A second event will be hosted at Psicon in the spring of 2017. If you work in the field of community neurological rehabilitation or brain injury case management and would like to register your interest in attending, please feel free to contact Joanna Howard-Field, Assistant Psychologist for the NAP service, at Joanna.Howard@psicon.co.uk.