Action for Brain Injury Week comes with sobering statistics

headway gen picTo promote Action for Brain Injury Week (May 18-24), the charity Headway has for the first time put together a complete picture of the number of brain injuries sustained in the UK – and it makes for grim reading.

Using hospital admissions statistics, Headway has compiled the first dataset on all ABI-related hospital admissions in the UK. The figures highlight a concerning growth in the number of people sustaining injuries to the brain each year.

The statistics reveal that the number of people admitted to a UK hospital with an acquired brain injury (ABI) related diagnosis has increased by 10% since 2005-06. The figures also show that female head injury admissions have risen 24% since 2005-6.

ABI is a term used for any injury to the brain sustained since birth, excluding neurodegenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease. By far the most common forms of ABI are traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke. Other causes include brain tumour, meningitis, aneurysm, haemorrhage, encephalitis, anoxia, and many others.

There are a staggering 250 recognised neurological conditions and in many cases the disability is unseen, which means victims are often misunderstood, misdiagnosed, unsupported and isolated.

Dianne Yates, Partner and Head of Serious and Catastrophic Injury for Birchall Blackburn Law, says: “The results confirm that brain injuries are very common and a growing public health concern. Headway’s report is a warning that the future health and social care for people with brain injury conditions is totally inadequate.

“What makes Headway’s report even more worrying is that we don’t know what the next round of welfare cuts will be following the election. There is a good chance services that support brain injury victims in the community will be affected at a time when the number of UK people with an ABI is increasing. It reinforces the fact that we badly need amazing charities like Headway and that they need our support.”

Headway says that over the past five years in particular, it has seen a dramatic increase in demand for its services on a national and local level. Calls to the charity’s UK-wide nurse-led helpline increased by 60% between 2010 and 2014, with approximately 70% of the enquiries received coming from people directly affected by brain injury. Headway’s local groups and branches are also experiencing an increase in demand for support. Many are struggling to meet this demand against the backdrop of reduced funding.

Headway’s study builds on a report by Professor Alan Tennant that examined head injury incidence in England over two years. The current research has analysed all ABI across the entire UK over a 14 year period since the start of the century. Professor Tennant’s 2005 study fed into the National Service Framework for Long term (Neurological) Conditions and he is widely regarded as the leading brain injury epidemiology expert in this country.

Professor Tennant, Emeritus Professor of Rehabilitation Studies, University of Leeds, says: “Headway’s work does provide the clearest picture to date of the pool of people who require support, from short-term advice and information, to long-term inpatient rehabilitation. It also provides up-to-date evidence with which to approach commissioners, and to request funding for rehabilitation and support services in areas of the greatest need. I sincerely hope that this excellent research receives the attention it warrants in order to contribute to an improvement in future service provision.”

Headway’s key findings are:

– There were 348,934 UK admissions to hospital with acquired brain injury in 2013-14. That is 566 admissions per 100,000 of the population.

– ABI admissions in the UK have increased by 10% since 2005-6.

– There were approximately 956 ABI admissions per day to UK hospitals in 2013-14 – or one every 90 seconds.

headway_infographic smll– In 2013-14, there were 162,544 admissions for head injury. That equates to 445 every day, or one every three minutes.

– Men are 1.6 times more likely than women to be admitted for head injury. However, female head injury admissions have risen 24% since 2005-6.

– In 2013-14, there were 130,551 UK admissions for stroke. That is an increase of 9% since 2005-6 and equates to one every four minutes.

Using Action for Brain Injury Week and the research data, the hope is to increase the public’s awareness of the wide range of conditions and causes of acquired brain injury, enable people to see that brain injury is more common that most realise, and emphasise the need for national and local brain injury services to be given the resources they need in order to help those affected.

People can get directly involved in Action for Brain Injury Week through Headway’s Hats4Headway Day this Friday May 22. Simply wear a hat to work, school or around the home, and make a donation to Headway. For more information visit www.abiweek.org or call 0808 800 2244.

Further reading:

Headway brain injury statistics

Headway 2014 study: A ticking time bomb: The false economy of cuts to brain injury services