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New UK government: What now for neuro-rehab?

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With a new UK government sweeping to power in the coming days following Labour’s landslide in the General Election, NR Times reports on what  neuro-rehab organisations would like to see next from Whitehall.

After 14 years of Conservative rule, a new Labour government led by Keir Starmer will soon be installed. Here we report on what organisations involved in brain and spinal care would like to see prioritised.

The Spinal Injuries Association said: “[We are] committed to collaborating with the new Labour government to enhance healthcare for all.

“During our recent ‘What Matters’ survey over half of respondents said that the health and care system does not work for people with spinal cord injury (SCI).

“People with SCI deserve better when it comes at accessing vital healthcare and we eagerly await improvements and increased investment in the NHS to help achieve this.”

Irene Sobowale, CEO of brain injury charity Brainkind, said: “Congratulations to the new Labour government.   We look forward to working with you on improving the lives of people with acquired brain injuries and other neurological conditions.

“We are calling upon the new government to prioritise and invest in social care, raise awareness and understanding of brain injury and to commit to the ongoing development of the ABI strategy.”

The Motor Neurone Disease Association told us: “Those in our community need politicians of all parties who support effective health and social care, improved cost of living support and access to life-changing medicines for people with MND.

“With the support from as many potential MPs as possible, we know that we will be able to make a difference in the next Government and we look forward to working with the newly elected officials who signed our pledge.”

Karin Orman, director of practice and innovation at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, said: “If the new Labour government is serious about addressing the crisis in health and social care, it must prioritise moving more occupational therapists into community settings, such as schools, GP surgeries, and housing teams.

“This will help people stay in work and be able to do the tasks and activities – or occupations – that they want and need to do to support their wellbeing.

“The Labour Party has said it will commit to “shifting resources to primary care and community services”. To do this, they need to prioritise access to occupational therapy in schools to help children and young people reach their potential; reduce pressure on emergency health services by making sure community rehabilitation teams include occupational therapists; and increase the number of occupational therapists in GP surgeries, which would help reduce both hospital admissions and the chances of people’s conditions getting worse.”

Headway, the brain injury charity, meanwhile, has set out five key asks of the new government, including an end to the “neurorehabilitation postcode lottery”.

“Every brain injury survivor should have access to specialist neurorehabilitation services that will provide them with the best possible chance of living a fulfilling life after their injury,” it says.

It also calls for more investment in local brain injury reablement services.

The charity says: “Some brain injury survivors face severe and lasting effects that require lifelong support. The network of Headway charities offers crucial and compassionate care to those affected by brain injury throughout their lives. Some of these services are now at risk of closure and urgently need sustainable funding to carry on supporting survivors.”

Other asks include raising awareness of brain injury, enhancing support for brain injury survivors’ loved ones and making social care “equitable and sustainable”.

Respite care charity Revitalise has called for fully-financed solutions for the adult social care sector.

CEO Janine Tregelles CBE said: “Our task for Sir Keir Starmer and his party is to take immediate action on adult social care reform. In particular, to ensure that vital respite is properly funded, and that respite funding receives specific protection so that it cannot be withdrawn from those who need it.

“After years of austerity, the pandemic and the cost of living crisis the government has turned respite care into a luxury – our ongoing Give me a Break campaign highlighting that of the 4.7 million unpaid carers in England, only one in 129 receive respite funding. Disabled people and their carers have long since been abandoned by politicians and policy makers and are at breaking point. It is high time our new government puts social care at the top of the agenda.”

Sense, the charity for people with complex disabilities, has made the following recommendations for the new government:

  • Make sure disabled people can afford the essentials
  • Fund social care so no disabled adult goes without support
  • End the postcode lottery of social care for disabled children
  • Give every disabled child equal access to education
  • Make the benefits system work for disabled people
  • Tackle barriers to work
  • Always have a senior Minister for Disabled People.

The charity recently polled 1,000 people with complex disabilities in the UK, with nearly half (47 per cent) believing that disabled people and the issues they face are not important to political parties.

Chief executive, Richard Kramer, said:  “It’s a disgrace that disabled people, and the societal inequalities they face, have received so little attention by politicians during the election campaign.

“It’s unsurprising, then, that so few disabled people believe that life will improve under a new UK government. But it must improve. The pandemic and the subsequent cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated many of the problems that disabled people and their families already faced.

“Disabled people are struggling to pay for essentials like food and energy. The social care sector, which so many depend on, is in crisis, and the welfare system is in urgent need of reform. Whoever forms the next UK government must show disabled people that they do matter to them.”

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