Expert's concern at lack of Welsh brain injury facilities

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Media captionWales needs at least another four head trauma centres, says Prof Rodger Wood

Wales needs more services to deal with the growing number of people suffering disabilities caused by head traumas, a brain injuries expert says.

Prof Rodger Wood of Swansea University said rehabilitation units for patients after they leave hospital can save millions every year in care costs.

A charity is building a residential unit in Carmarthenshire but Prof Wood said another four were needed.

The Welsh government said it was working to improve services.

The Brain Injury and Rehabilitation Trust - where Prof Wood was clinical director until 2001 - has 13 post-acute rehabilitation units in Scotland and England which are used to help patients after they leave hospital and return home.

It has none in Wales but is due to open its first unit in Llanelli in spring 2014.

'Provision isn't there'

However, Prof Wood says Wales needs more residential facilities to cope with demand.

"Around 500 people per year (in the UK) will have permanent and serious neuro-behaviour disabilities as a result of head trauma," he said.

"If you think of that year on year the number of people is growing and the level of services for them is still very, very poor.

"It's been estimated that people who go through post-acute rehabilitation make the kind of improvements that save millions of pounds per year in care costs - that's contact with GPs, contact with hospital authorities, social services support and all the rest of it.

"But the provision still isn't there for them."

While most head injuries will not cause any lasting damage, the more serious cases can have a big impact on a patient's life.

Lose temper

Image copyright SPL
Image caption About 500 people per year in the UK have disabilities caused by head trauma

Prof Wood explained that head injuries often damage the frontal lobes of the brain - or the "social brain" - which stops people doing or saying things we might regret.

"Alcohol tolerance is low, so you get drunk much more easily, you lose your temper much more easily, judgement is poor and that often leads to contact with the police - and imprisonment," added Prof Wood, who is consultant clinical neuro psychologist with Singleton and Morriston hospitals

The Brain Injury and Rehabilitation Trust is building its first unit in Wales, in Llanelli, which will have 24 beds, six of which will be in independent flats.

About 50 full-time jobs will also be created when the centre opens in April next year.

Susan Munroe, the director of the trust, said the building was state-of-the-art.

"It's going to have 24 beds, 18 of them will be in the main unit (with) single en-suite rooms," she said.

Ms Munroe told Radio Wales about 80% of their patients were men.

"Most of them are youngish men as well and that's because the commonest causes of brain injury are road traffic accidents, assaults, falls and then sporting injuries and industrial injuries," she added.

"Other things like strokes and infection can also cause somebody to have a brain injury."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We recognise that many individuals who suffer a traumatic brain injury need effective co-ordinated care to deal with both the physical and psychological effects."

The spokesperson added work was ongoing to improve their care through the development of a delivery plan for neurological conditions and the implementation of the recommendations of a Welsh Adult Neuroscience Review by local health boards.

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