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National Brain Injury Conference 2022: Collaboration, creativity and community

Irwin Mitchell’s National Brain Injury Conference took place in Manchester earlier this month. 

It was a wonderful opportunity to get together with like-minded professionals, specialising in the world of brain injury. 

Sarah Griggs, a serious injury partner, opened the conference, highlighting that at Irwin Mitchell, collaboration and working together in the interests of our clients, really is at the heart of everything that we do.

Inspirational speakers

We heard from a host of inspirational speakers, including Chloe Hayward, from the United Kingdom Acquire Brain Injury Forum, who highlighted that every 90 seconds someone is admitted to hospital with an acquired brain injury (ABI).  

It was also emphasised that traumatic brain injury (TBI) is more prevalent in certain sections of our society, including in the criminal justice system and in the homeless population. 

Dr Gemma Costello, specialist educational psychologist in paediatric neuropsychology spoke of the fact that four children in every primary school class will have a TBI before they leave school and how important it is that schools receive training on ABI.  

It is accepted that a well-supported transition back to school after brain injury increases the likelihood of children and young people staying in school.

Professor David Sharp, consultant neurologist, identified that there are 20,000 TBI’s in Great Britain each year, caused by road traffic accidents and that pedestrians were six times more likely to suffer a TBI. 

He discussed how biomarkers can be used to provide diagnostic information to ensure the injured person is treated appropriately, which could in some circumstances be lifesaving.

Dr Helen Brunger, health psychologist from Stanford Hall, similarly discussed the collaborative work being done with both civilian and military personnel in respect of biomarkers to predict outcomes in mild TBI.

Brain injury figures likely to be much higher

All speakers agreed that the statistics quoted were likely to be an under-representation of the true incident rate of TBI, given that many go unreported.  

It is clear therefore that brain injury affects a huge number of people.  It is only with collaboration, creativity and effective communication that we, as professionals, will be best placed to support survivors of brain injury.

Communication is key

We heard that communication is key.  Effective communication in this population can sometimes be the difference between life and death if that person isn’t effectively able to communicate their difficulties. 

It is important when supporting survivors of brain injury that we are speaking their language. 

Dr Graeme Flaherty-Jones of Clarity Psychology, spoke engagingly about personality traits and how best to communicate with the differing personalities.  It is also important to ensure a psychologically safe space, which encourages trust and co-operation, increases creativity and innovation and allows us to learn and change. 

These key features are essential to support brain injury survivors effectively and create new and innovative ways of treating their ongoing difficulties.  The audience even had a go at identifying their own personality traits – with many surprised by the outcome.

Communication is certainly not always straight forward and Dr Catriona McIntosh addressed the complex issue of rehabilitation of sexual needs and relationships after TBI.  We need to be having these conversations with our clients and patients and we cannot assume that another professional will be dealing with it – as it is likely that they won’t be. 

Assistive technology

We were fortunate to hear from Paul Doyle from waytoB on next generation smart homes and how assistive technology could support someone to live independently. 

Jennifer Benson, speech and language therapist, also shared her client Arron’s journey with assistive technology and how voice banking had helped him to communicate effectively and maintain his own sense of self. 

Professor Mark Edwards of the Brain and Mind Clinic spoke about wanting to see the removal of post-concussion syndrome as a label following brain injury.  He discussed the importance of diagnosis in Functional Neurological Disorders (FND) and how often treating these individuals under a generic TBI pathway can actually worsen symptoms of FND.

A thoroughly engaging and enjoyable day.  Please do join us for our next conference on Rethinking Rehabilitation on 19 September, 2022.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people following a brain injury and their family at our dedicated brain injury claims section.