Online brain injury and stroke support scheme given additional funding
An online brain injury support scheme to aid brain injury and stroke survivors has been boosted with additional funding, allowing people across Lancashire and South Cumbria to continue accessing therapy and support from home.
The Lancashire and South Cumbria regional NeuroRehabilitation OnLine (NROL) programme, which is hosted by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) uses online video sessions to provide specialist group neurorehabilitation to brain injury and stroke survivors.
The scheme was created in winter 2020/21 because patients were limited in accessing face to face NHS treatment due to COVID restrictions and now over 2,000 patients have been able to access the sessions from the comfort of their own home thanks to funding from the charity SameYou. The additional £169,000 secured from NHS England’s Stroke Quality Improvement Rehabilitation (SQuIRe) catalyst funding process will enable this vital resource to continue for a further 12 months.
The sessions are a great example of how ELHT is developing a hospital without walls, with care being provided in a place and at a time convenient to patients rather than within the traditional confines of a hospital building. Attending a hospital appointment is not always easy for patients due to the cost of transport, caring responsibilities and fitting appointments around work.
One patient whom the sessions have benefitted is 33-year-old Alyssa Havko, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour when she was young. Sadly, the shunt in Alyssa’s head stopped working in Christmas 2021 and she had to undergo surgery to fix it, with a long-recovery period needed for physical and speech and language therapy.
She said: “After my recovery in hospital I was referred to NROL so I could continue my therapy at home. After my surgery I had to learn to walk again and this is exhausting so having access to these sessions at home is ideal as I don’t have to leave the house and walk around busy buildings.”
“It’s been almost 10 months since my surgery and one month since I finished my NROL programme and I couldn’t be more thankful for the team and the sessions they provide. One of my goals was to be able to walk my dog again and I’m now able to get out more – I just recently walked my dog to the top of the road.”
Tony Buckles, 55, also collapsed after his brain shunt stopped working due to too much fluid in his brain, and began on the NROL sessions in summer this year.
He commented: “I’ve really enjoyed the sessions and the team have been amazing, the staff have even helped me get set up on my laptop at home so I can access the support. Each week we learn something different.”
“I live in Blackpool so before my online sessions I was having to get two buses to attend my speech and language therapy. I struggle with walking so doing the sessions at home is much easier, it allows me to be flexible and although doctors think my brain tumour may be returning, I am so thankful for everything the team has done to help me.”
Tony is not the only one that NROL has helped access support due to transportation difficulties – Jeanette Kimber, 59, lives in Haverigg, a remote village on the West Coast of Cumbria.
Jeanette suffered a stroke at the beginning of July and spent nine days in hospital before being discharged to continue her recovery through NROL at home.
She said: “I live on my own, I can’t drive and I’m three miles from the nearest town with no public transport and paying for taxis every week was just not an option for me. The NROL sessions have been invaluable, they’ve kept my spirits up when I’ve been recovering alone and it’s nice to be able to chat to people in a similar situation to myself.”
“It’s amazing just to know that you can talk to somebody in the same situation. It makes a big difference; I know I’m not the only one fighting now. It’s been so beneficial to hear from others who have been on the course longer than me to hear their experience and it’s given me the determination to keep fighting, I want to get back to normal.”
She also added: “I’d like to say a huge thank you to the SameYou charity for funding this programme. Before my stroke I didn’t know things like this existed – it’s fantastic for people who are isolated like me.”
Sharing the experience with others in a similar situation was also a benefit for Richard Talbot, a 59-year-old living in Ulverston. He has been doing the sessions from his spare room after neuropsychology sessions weren’t available in his area.
He commented: “NROL has been great as you chat with familiar faces every week. I attend the sessions weekly and it’s really helped me get to know people. I’ve even made a friend and we are looking to meet up soon, I can’t imagine that would have happened if I’d been attending one-to-one sessions at a hospital.”
The county-wide scheme which began in ELHT involves physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, speech and language therapists and assistant practitioners from ELHT, Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, after it was rolled out across Lancashire and South Cumbria thanks to new funding earlier this year.
Louise Connell, Professor of Neurorehabilitation at ELHT & UCLan, said: “We’re really pleased we’ve reached 2,000 patient contacts and these stories highlight just how important the programme is. NROL is delivering extra therapy to a range of patients of different ages and backgrounds, and I am very proud of the team effort that has made this happen.”
Sian Davies, Head of Speech and Language Therapy, Stroke & Neurorehabilitation Services at ELHT, added: “NROL started out as a response to Covid but through delivering rehabilitation this way we have learnt so much about new models of service delivery which colleagues and patients are telling us are bringing real tangible benefits.
“It is enabling us to create a very exciting community of practice amongst stroke and neurorehabilitation therapists, embracing ways of working collaboratively across organisational boundaries. The enthusiasm and commitment of all the colleagues involved is outstanding and we are now in discussions with our commissioning colleagues to look both to sustain and grow this across our Integrated Care Board and potentially further.”