Duke of Cornwall Spinal Injuries Centre, based at Salisbury District Hospital. Whilst in my profession I fully accept that things can go wrong at any hospital, as a treatment centre, I have nothing but praise for the way that the centre seeks to rehabilitate patients back into their own homes with the maximum level of physical function that they can possibly achieve.

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Duke of Cornwall Spinal Injuries Centre

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The first time I visited there in 2005, I saw a patient in a brace from his pelvis to his upper chest. The gentleman in question was confined to a wheelchair, was doubly incontinent and by anybody's account had a significant spinal cord injury as a consequence of a rare spinal cyst, but one that had gone unrecognised over the New Year period in 2005/2006 until a time when it was too late to prevent permanent damage. Thankfully for him he was in the referral area for the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Unit and was rehabilitated there for a period of around 6 months.

Upon leaving the centre, this gentleman was able to return to his own home, albeit with considerable adaptations being carried out by him, his partner and his local social services. He was eventually able to return in a reduced capacity to his self employment as a picture-framer and antiques dealer with assistance from his father, his partner and various back-to-work grants, which assisted hugely in his psychological rehabilitation. He continued to have continence issues but was able to function in an adapted day to day life with support. By the time that his claim was settled, he was able to walk with a stick, go to work and pursue a meaningful life. I do not in any way take away my huge respect for this gentleman and his family, and his personal refusal to be beaten by what had happened to him. He is a very lovely man who is determined not to give in to fate and to lead a fulfilling life whatever difficulties he has to face, but I genuinely believe that the way of dealing with day to day difficulties taught at the Centre at Salisbury had a significant part to play.

Last year I was lucky enough to attend an APIL  meeting hosted by the Centre. I was able to see first hand the fantastic rehabilitation facilities they have, not necessarily for patients that they have long term as an in-patient, but also for patients they have on particular programmes referred by other hospitals. The facilities they have to encourage people to maximise their potential if they have a spinal injury is fantastic. This is not a cerebral (brain) injury rehab centre, but the hospital at Salisbury is also a renowned burns centre. I was especially impressed by the facilities they have to assist people to regain their manual co-ordination and particularly their upper limb function. Workshops in woodwork, art etc. abound, which patients gain huge confidence from, knowing that they are still able to contribute to society, and more importantly, their own families.

More recently I went to see a patient who has had a very significant spinal cord injury, thus far from an unexplained cause and an unexpected complication from totally unrelated surgery at a different hospital. At the time when I visited him, he also had double incontinence problems, was reliant upon a wheelchair and had been told that he is likely to remain so for the long term, at least in respect of mobilisation outside of his home. He was looking forward to being discharged in 2-3 months time to a care home closer to his own residence whilst adaptations were carried out to his own home, so that he could be closer to his wife of many years. He told me that the staff at The Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre assisted him with all the state benefit applications that he had to make, liaised with social services and the council on his behalf and were there to support him with any problems that he had even after his discharge.

I was delighted to hear from him less than a month later to find that he has actually been able to return to his home and his much missed wife, with some adaptations to his home having been carried out and with others in the pipeline, all with the assistance of the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre. Again I do not wish to detract from this gentleman's own self-motivation and determination to overcome his physical injuries as far as is possible, but the importance of the support from the Spinal Injury Centre cannot be underestimated.

Salisbury should be proud of the facilities that their spinal unit can provide. As I understand it, referrals should be made through the individual's doctor and the unit has criteria for acceptance, as well as bed availability, to ensure that they can provide the highest level of support possible to patients that they have the best chance of assisting.     

Kym Provan, Senior Solicitor

Clinical Negligence

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