Providing for children with cerebral palsy
FUNDING cuts are taking their toll on cerebral palsy sufferers.
Tightening of the purse strings by Government departments and benevolent donators has left health bosses and charities with a quandary – how do you provide for people with the condition without creating a postcode lottery?
A growing number of families, including many from Gloucestershire, are fundraising to send their little ones abroad for their treatment.
Among them is three-year-old Skye Swinton, whose mum Ruth, from Arle, is hoping to raise £40,000 for an operation to help her walk properly.
And six-year-old Daniel Morgan, from Leckhampton, needed to raise £54,000 for an operation in Missouri.
The term cerebral palsy covers a number of conditions where the brain does not respond effectively, resulting in problems with movement, posture and co-ordination.
At some point very early in life, either while a baby is still growing in the womb, during birth or shortly after, something happens to interfere with the normal development of the brain or to injure the brain tissues.
This development or injury disrupts the nerve signals between the brain and the muscles, leading to problems with movement, posture and co-ordination as the child grows up.
It is estimated that as many as one in every 400 children may have cerebral palsy, which means nearly 2,000 babies are diagnosed every year.
Causes include infections during early pregnancy, oxygen starvation to the baby's brain during pregnancy or delivery, premature birth, and bleeds in the brain.
There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but there are treatments and therapies which can help make it easier.
Speech and language therapy helps with speech development and also with eating, drinking, and swallowing.
Surgery is sometimes needed to correct muscle development problems or function.
Medication can reduce muscle hyperactivity and spasticity, but physiotherapy is the bedrock of cerebral palsy management and can help with posture and movement.
Occupational therapy helps children overcome difficulties performing everyday tasks, encouraging them to lead independent lives.
Disability charity Scope and independent think-tank Nef are hoping to get people to find other ways of helping people with cerebral palsy.
They have launched a new report called Doing services differently: Local innovations for disabled people. A spokesman for Scope said: "Councils and charities alike are facing unprecedented budget cuts coupled with increasing demands for services.
"A big challenge for both sectors is to understand how services can support disabled people at a time when cuts are the main driver of change.
"We hope it will spark a new conversation with and between councils and charities, on how we can work together to deliver the support disabled people want, in order to lead the lives they value."
Staff at NHS Gloucestershire are trained to deal with all aspects of cerebral palsy.
Medical director Dr Liz Mearns said: "There are a range of treatments available, all of which are designed to help children with cerebral palsy achieve as much independence as possible, depending on their individual circumstances.
"Many different health professionals may be involved, such as nurses, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, health visitors and social workers.
"Each child will have an individual care plan which addresses their specific needs, and this will be continually reassessed as the child grows up, and their needs change.
"We also jointly fund services with Gloucestershire County Council, for example, respite care, hospice care and a range of activities."