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Improving the health and well-being
of people living in East Yorkshire
and Northern Lincolnshire

 

The SIA has 85 members living in East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire who can access the services of the SIA at any time. The Support Network Officer, is currently supporting all enquiries from this region, using his personal experience and knowledge of SCI to provide positive insight into life beyond injury, advising on a wide range of physical, mental, and social issues. Every four hours, someone suffers a trauma or medical condition resulting in a spinal cord injury causing partial or complete paralysis, yet only one in three will receive treatment in a specialist setting. Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) exists to help people with spinal cord injuries on their unique journey towards leading an independent and fulfilled life. The current pandemic has refocused SIA’s mission and they find themselves in the unprecedented position of working to protect the SCI community from Covid-19 to prevent as many avoidable deaths as possible. SCI people are one of the highest risk categories at the heart of the Coronavirus pandemic due to an increased risk of developing respiratory infections, impaired immune systems and for some, a reliance on carers who may become ill themselves.

Learning to live with a SCI and the associated physical, emotional, and social complexities is a huge feat – especially for those who are newly injured. Even those who have lived with an injury for many years can struggle as they face new challenges in life. The additional threat of contracting coronavirus is terrifying for SCI people and an ever-increasing number are turning to SIA for advice and support. The increased pressure on the NHS means their knowledge and expertise is needed by both the SCI community and the healthcare professionals caring for them. In response to this, SIA has re-deployed its efforts to deliver a programme of services for the vulnerable SCI population providing information, advocacy and support. SIA’s Support Network Officer delivers peer support to SCI people using lived experience of spinal cord injury to provide practical and emotional support helping individuals to rebuild their lives. As the Support Network Officer is spinal-cord injured himself, he is also at serious risk should he contract the coronavirus. Therefore, peer support is being delivered via telephone, email, and video calls to meet the increased demand for the service as calls to our 111-style Advice Line have doubled over the past month. Many of the SCI people  supported are unfortunately well-accustomed to social isolation, however the threat of the coronavirus and potential admission to a General Hospital is causing a huge amount of fear and anxiety for the SCI community. There are life-threatening risks for SCI people who are attending or being admitted to hospitals, for example, pressure ulcers, or inappropriate bladder and bowel care. Hospitals are being asked to redirect resources to treat coronavirus patients which limits specialist care for SCI people. This could lead to serious health complications and, in some cases, preventable deaths amongst SCI people. Therefore, the Support Network is literally becoming a lifeline for many. Alongside, providing general advice on how to live with a SCI on daily basis and supporting virtual drop-in clinics, the Support Network Officer advising individuals on health concerns and directing them to our online guidance. The dedicated webpage www.spinal.co.uk/coronavirus provides up-to-date advice and links to useful resources put together by our expert SCI Nurse Specialists. Where appropriate, individuals are referred to the SCI Nursing Specialist team for assistance with emergency care plans and advocacy with healthcare professionals. The team is also providing virtual training sessions for healthcare professionals to increase their awareness and raise the level of healthcare delivered to SCI individuals in a non-specialist care setting. The Support Network Officer is also assisting with the triage of calls to the Freephone Advice Line which is exceptionally busy. As he already has existing contacts with the Princess Royal Spinal Injuries Centre in Sheffield and Pinderfields Spinal Injuries Centre in Wakefield, he is well placed to support this service and signpost individuals to relevant SIA and external services in the area.