Guest post by Trevor Sterling, a partner at Moore Barlow and co-founder of the Major Trauma Group
The pandemic has brought many challenges for all of us, leading to upheaval and change across society. On the frontline, the NHS has been hugely impacted, with demand for its services at an all-time high and the backlog of surgeries, long waiting times and reduced cancer diagnoses and referrals needing to be urgently addressed.
However, one group requiring significant support that is often overlooked is victims of major trauma.
Individuals recovering from life-changing injuries rely on access to chronically under-resourced and underfunded physical and psychological rehabilitation services that can be the difference between life and death or improved quality of life.
Moving forward, major trauma victims will need access to holistic rehabilitation to remedy the lost rehabilitation time they have missed out on. As the NHS will be under extreme pressure for some time, lawyers must use all the tools available to them to help their clients gain access to the services they require.
Long-Covid has highlighted the importance of rehabilitation services within our health systems but has also unfortunately intensified the pressure these services are under to deliver patient care, with one in 20 diagnosed with Covid-19 suffering for months after infection and requiring long term support.
However, as hospital capacity has been pushed to the brink, major trauma patients are increasingly being prematurely ‘discharged to Google’, and therefore are in need of greater support in the community.
Beyond higher demand for rehabilitation services, the difficult landscape for major trauma victims has been intensified by the pandemic in many other ways.
For example, one of my clients suffered a catastrophic brain injury in 2017 when they were hit by a bus. They lost the ability to look after themselves and their children and suffered suicidal thoughts and depression.
Due to lockdown restrictions and strains on the NHS, the therapists and rehabilitation providers that were vital for this individual’s quality of life could not offer the necessary support, putting immeasurable strain on the family.
As a short-term solution to deal with this situation, the family resorted to taking over therapy and care responsibilities. This was not a sustainable solution for delivering the best possible health outcomes but was unfortunately a common experience for major trauma victims across the country.
Given the ongoing challenging circumstances major trauma victims are still facing, the implementation of a holistic rehabilitation programme is an urgent necessity.
Undeniably, lawyers will be vital in this process and they must utilise their resources, contacts and expertise to deliver for their clients who need this crucial rehabilitative care.
We must also be proactive in collaborating with others, including charities, insurers and other community groups, as ultimately the pathway for the essential holistic rehabilitation of major trauma survivors’ hinges on various groups working together.
Additionally, in light of the recent Sewell report, there is also increasing discussion and awareness of race disparities in relation to health and the disproportionate negative impact on health outcomes faced by the ethnic community.
Lawyers must make a conscious effort to understand the additional barriers to recovery that their clients could be encountering, and work with clinicians and case managers to overcome these inequalities throughout the rehabilitation process.
As we move out of the pandemic, it will take time for NHS services to return to normal capacity. This has huge implications for the recovery process of major trauma victims, so it is vital that lawyers, and other groups involved in personal injury and major trauma recovery, unite in making the development of a fair and equal holistic rehabilitation service a priority.