Spinal staff work with charities to get patients home quicker
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.”