Supporting patients and families

Growing the service for brain injury patients

Pictured above: new clinical psychologist Cliodhna Carroll and John Ling, Clinical Nurse Specialist in brain injury services

The brain injury rehabilitation service at King’s has recently recruited a new clinical psychologist to their team, thanks to charitable donations from supporters of the hospital, as well as a £21,000 donation from local law firm, Anthony Gold.

Giving back in thanks

A family whose daughter suffered severe brain injury in a car crash wanted to fundraise for King’s after her treatment and rehabilitation at the hospital.

When considering where the money could make a difference they heard from John Ling, Clinical Nurse Specialist in brain injury services, about a pilot project for the psychology service that had run previously, which was also funded by donations. Whilst the post within that pilot was only part-time and temporary, it proved how much it was needed longer term.

People with brain injury may face challenges with their thinking processes such as memory, attention, or being able to plan and complete tasks. Things like mood and anxiety can be affected, and people can often struggle to come to terms with the changes that they have experienced.

Often patients and their families would receive much needed intensive support whilst in the hospital, but when back at home, perhaps the point that help and advice is most needed, it wasn’t so readily available. 

‘What the family seemed to tag on to was the importance of someone supporting a patient in terms of their emotions when they get out of hospital, and of supporting the family when their family dynamic changes,’ reflects John.

New clinical psychologist role

Cliodhna Carroll was recruited as the new clinical psychologist and has been in post since October 2014. She works with patients and their families at varying stages of rehabilitation, providing support to people who are in the acute stages after injury, as well as once they have returned home and are adapting to changes in their daily lives. 

‘One of the most important things in my role is saying to people, “how are you, and how is this affecting you?”’ says Cliodhna. ‘It seems like a really simple thing and as a clinical psychologist I’ve got a range of skills available to me, but I think that’s probably the most essential. It’s supporting people on a journey that is often long and not as fast as they would like it to be.’

Support for the patient’s family is also vital; another element that can now be addressed more thoroughly than ever by Cliodhna.

‘With brain injury it doesn’t just happen to one person, it happens to the whole family,’ she says.

‘Everybody’s family roles change. Maybe a son now becomes a carer for mum; or somebody that always did the paperwork and the bills perhaps isn’t able to do that anymore because of cognitive difficulties so someone else now has to, which can put a stress on the family system.’  

Years of treatment

Around 500 patients a year are admitted to King’s with brain injury, caused from a number of things such as trauma to the head or haemorrhages from aneurysms or similar conditions. Many of these will be mild problems, but more serious cases can mean years of difficulties for the patient and their family. 

‘Once someone has a brain injury they can live a normal life expectancy, so these issues might arise at different points,’ explains John. ‘The family might be okay for some of the time, but then something new happens and a change occurs. So we have to be available.’

Steps forward

Funding has currently been provided for the post for two years as a non-commissioned service, which John views as a positive step towards hopefully a permanent post.
‘It’s not usual that you have a brain injury team with a psychologist in the acute hospital who also follows the person through to home; that’s above and beyond what’s normal,’ he says. ‘We want to keep that growing coherence to the service.’  

Funding from donations can be vital to helping grow a service and deliver top quality care to as many patients and families as possible. Find out more about how you can support King’s College Hospital as it strives to achieve this.