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Spinal cord injury paralyses someone every four hours, new estimates reveal.
- Jun 3, 2019
- Latest News
• New data estimates that 2,500 people are injured or diagnosed with a spinal cord injury every year, not 1,000 as previously thought.
• Increased support to spinal cord injured people now urgent, say charities.
New estimates by Spinal Injuries Association, Aspire and Back Up – three of the leading charities providing support to spinal cord injured people – show that the number of people paralysed by a spinal cord injury is much higher than previously estimated. The charities are calling on all government departments to ensure that every spinal cord injured person has the care and support they need and deserve to lead a fulfilled and independent life.
Using the NHS’s own statistics, as well as data from other countries, the charities estimate that the number of people injured or diagnosed with a life-changing spinal cord injury in the UK is 2,500 per year, whilst the total number of people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK is 50,000. Previously it was widely believed, including by the NHS itself, that only 1,000 people were injured or diagnosed each year and that the total number of people living with a spinal cord injury was 40,000.
The charities attribute the increased figures mainly to improved reporting and record keeping as well as a more inclusive definition of spinal cord injury which includes non-traumatic causes such as illnesses as well as accidents. Additionally, medical advances now mean that life expectancy for people living with a spinal cord injury is broadly the same as non-injured people.
Not only are very many more people now known to sustain a spinal cord injury than previously estimated, but the nature of injury has also changed. The NHS’s own recently published data shows that the stereotypical view of a spinal cord injured person as a young man who has come off a motorbike is reducing. More older people are sustaining a spinal cord injury through, for example, falls in the home, more women are sustaining an injury and more people are being diagnosed with an illness or condition, such as Cauda Equina Syndrome or cancer that leaves them paralysed. Additionally, the research indicates that only between one third and half of recently injured people are able to access specialist NHS care and those that do can expect lengthy delays prior to admission,
Nik Hartley OBE, Chief Executive of Spinal Injuries Association said.
“The revelation that there are hundreds more people across the UK that are now known to sustain a spinal cord injury every year is stark. But it is not just the increased numbers; it is the decreasing provision of specialist services alongside that, that is truly shocking. The NHS and wider government must dramatically increase vital and extremely specialist health care and support to the 2,500 people each year who are having to come to terms with a life of paralysis from spinal cord injury. We will not stop fighting until that change in investment happens.”
This article originally appeared in the Expert Witness Journal issue 27 Spring 2019