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Focus on Military

Complex Trauma & Amputation Rehabilitation - A Lifelong Commitment for Service Personnel

Irwin Mitchell’s commitment to rehabilitation following injury was reinforced by the Military Injury Claims team annual conference held in Birmingham earlier this year.

Our key note speaker was Dr Emily Mayhew of the Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Studies at the Imperial College, on the theme in her book “Wounded” which considers how medical lessons from amputation in the First World War were lost in the intervening years.

Emily has written the first comprehensive account of medical care at the Western Front and pays tribute to the courageous men and women who saved hundreds and thousands of lives and who were skilled in dealing with the injuries arising out of that conflict.

Emily was passionate in urging that the medical lessons learnt from amputation in Afghanistan should not suffer the same fate.

The audience of Welfare Officers, Charity Workers and Medical Personnel then heard from veteran Andy Reid and Stephen Cruse of AIM who contrasted the experiences of military and civilian amputees and later from Ken Bellringer, a former Army Technical Officer who was part of the Barclays START programme for veterans transitioning to civilian employment.

The fact that pain is a barrier to rehabilitation was the subject of a detailed presentation by Dr Kosheen Ford and we were also enlightened by Steve Seccombe of Blatchfords on state-of-the-art prosthetics and orthotics.

The day allowed plenty of time for formal and informal discussions and afterwards we asked delegates about the key themes, which were explored.

To see more, you can watch this video taken at the conference.

You can also follow Andy Reid of AIM on Twitter @andyreid2506.

Questions from the Conference

Here are a selection of questions we asked delegates after the conference and their responses.

Have you seen a soldier whose pain management regime was successful and if so, what made the most difference?

“Well managed pain relief, plus emotional and physical self care.”

“Soldiers tolerate pain in many different levels. There has not been enough money and research into pain management and I have not yet met with a successful regime.”

“This comes down to the individual and the support they receive at home. Sadly those who have little support and are struggling due their immaturity or dysfunctional family dynamics have the most problems.

Do you agree with HRH Prince Harry that “employment is the key to independence and long-term stability for our wounded” and if so, what should employers be encouraged to do?

“Yes, I agree but employment does not necessarily only mean paid or full-time. Employers need to look at a wider spectrum of employment opportunities to include part-time/flexible hours, voluntary/mixed skill work roles.”

“Agreed, although housing is also important as the two go hand in hand. Once a veteran has a place to live then he is free to look for employment.”

“Yes, but pain management and psychological trauma also need to be managed.”

Is there a danger that specialist rehabilitation centres are becoming too centralised?

“Not if they develop a good working relationship with local centres.” “Sadly this is the result of cutbacks but in my opinion, better to have fewer yet better resourced centres even if that means extra trouble for the individual. We only have one Headley Court and that works.”

“There are lots of unidentified clinics and rehabilitation centres that are yet to be utilised. I have recently found the government finally released £30 million to support Olympic rehabilitation centres countrywide. The main rehabilitation centre is in Tottenham Court Road and is open to all patients with a referral from their GP.”

Do you think that grading amputee patient complexities is a useful treatment tool?

“Yes, it is a good idea for management of appointments and skills for complex patients.”

“I did not really agree with the grading system. There are too many complexities with injuries to grade individuals. It will inevitably lead to amputees in the wrong group or grading.”

What was the main thought that you have been left with from the day?

“That our servicemen and women who are injured in conflict deserve the best and we have to continue to fight on their behalf to ensure they get that.”

“We must also focus on the bigger picture - a stable life free of injury or pain. Veterans need to be socially, physically and mentally stable. If we can achieve the physical and social parts then the mental stability will fall into line.”

“That it is very reassuring that organisations such as yours are taking an interest in the welfare of our veterans.”

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