A major brain injuries charity fears heavy cuts to its funding which could put the future of their service in jeopardy.
Headway, an association that treats people who have suffered head injuries in over 100 branches across the United Kingdom, could see as much as 50 per cent of their funding cut by some local authorities when the local government budgets are finalised in March.
The organisation works to improve the lives of around 10,000 people every year, many of which suffer moderate or severe injuries and may never work again.
Headway UK Communications Manager Luke Griggs admitted that the funding provided by grants from Local Authorities could be reduced by 50 per cent in many drop-in centres and day-care centres across Britain.
Griggs said: “Local Authorities have until March to finalise their budgets, so a lot of branches haven’t actually found out that they are going to be cut yet, but they have had information through, including 50 per cent cuts in the budgets they have previously relied on.
“And, as you can imagine, any organisation losing half of its funding is going to struggle significantly.”
The Coalition government’s proposal for the restructuring of the NHS will mean an £80bn budget will be devolved for patient care to GPs. The reform will see more than 20,000 health service staff lose their jobs, and Griggs labelled it the “most radical restructuring of the NHS in a generation.”
He added: “It is not only the restructuring of the NHS that is of great concern, but also social welfare reforms as a whole.
“There is a great concern from Headway, groups and branches across the UK and indeed service users of Headway that the services provided by headway are under great threat on a local level.”
Councillor Lynda Price, Conservative Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care at Bournemouth Borough Council, admitted that there is concern about the new structure of the NHS.
She said: “It is a bit worrying, because anything that is new is always worrying. But I think it is a good step forward that needs to be monitored closely, and it will be.
“It’s really a way of utilising money in a better way, rather then having huge management structures trying to move the money to the front, where it is needed, in the actual services themselves.”
Cllr Price also heavily criticised the previous Labour Government, who led Great Britain into a recession under the leadership of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
“People seem to forget that we have had 12 years of the previous Government spending, spending, spending.
“We end up with this and some ridiculous man left a note saying there is no money left. I never found that very funny.
“I thought that was an appalling attitude to take, just to be so flippant about it. The end result is that we, the public, are hurting from that.”
Bournemouth Borough Council has also seen a 15.2 per cent reduction in Government grant, on top of the Supporting People Grant being reduced by 44 per cent.
This council’s reduction in government funding reflects the squeeze on the NHS, with the government tightening the finances and saving money through efficiencies.
Southampton General Hospital is one of the leaders in treatment to traumatic brain injuries and intensive rehabilitation, and some neurological staff think that it would be a false economy to reduce funding in rehabilitation and therapy.
‘Rehabilitation is vital’
Dr John Hell, Director of the Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit at Southampton General Hospital, said: “I hope that people will understand that active, aggressive management of traumatic brain injury early, followed by aggressive rehabilitation will actually, in the long term save money because it will allow these patients to go into independent living and hopefully back to work or study, rather than requiring long term care because they were unable to make any sort of reasonable recovery.
An estimated 1 million people are treated in Accident and Emergency (A & E) Units for head injuries in the UK, with 150,000 of those seen as moderate or severe.
At Southampton General, the mortality rate is approximately 12 per cent of patients that are treated in Intensive Care. Sadly, there is nothing the Doctors can do with the minority in this critical condition, but Dr Hell thinks the service is an important, life-saving service that gives patients a chance to lead independent lives once again.
Dr Hell added: “Rehabilitation is vital in order to re-orientate the patients as to what’s happened, how it’s effected them and how they are likely to deal with any disability they find afterwards.
“The disability may be physical which is reasonably straightforward. Much more worrying is the loss of higher functions and difficulties with memory and mood swings.
“And this is where rehabilitation is very important in actually getting patients able to cope back in the community on their own.”
The Coalition Government reform also means that people who have suffered from head injuries will be moved from an incapacity benefit allowance, which gives them necessary benefits for life, to an employment support allowance by 2014.
This means that they will have mandatory appointments at local job centres to see if they are fit to apply for work, and in turn move on to job seekers allowance.
Lynn Donaldson, an employee at Dorset’ Headway branch, said: “Most clients won’t ever be able to work again so that is why they are rewarded incapacity benefit, which is for life, just with medicals here and there.
“But the benefit is changing over, so that all clients have to go for appointments, and between now and 2014 they have to go for a medical.”
“It could mean reducing benefits. It could mean that it will put people on different benefits.”
“All I know is that our clients are getting very confused and very upset and anxious. They are receiving lettings that they don’t understand.”
The extent of cuts across the board will be revealed as local government budget proposals are finalised before the end of March, and it is sure to be an anxious time for Headway’s 9,000 employees and volunteers, with the organisation preparing to deal with a damaging blow to its services.