Savage cuts in rehabilitation services are resulting in thousands of brain injury victims being denied help and ultimately costing the taxpayer more money, according to a new study by the brain injury charity, Headway.
More than a million people with a brain injury living in the UK have been forced to compromise their quality of life because a combination of local authority, NHS funding and welfare budget reforms has resulted in rehabilitation and support services being removed.
"Timely access to rehabilitation and continuing health and social care is needed to help people regain a degree of independence, improve their quality of life and reduce their reliance on more expensive long-term care," according to Colin Shieff, a consultant at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, and a Headway trustee.
More than half of the 500 survivors of brain injury in the survey reported that they had lost access to rehabilitation and support services. The charity warned the cuts were not cost effective, as people might be forced to become dependent on more expensive, long-term state support in the future.
Luke Griggs, of Headway, said that people were being "cut out of society due to lack of access to vital support services. Not only is this morally wrong but it also demonstrates a short-sighted approach. Cutting rehabilitation services or reducing access to them is a false economy, as it reduces the chances of people with brain injury regaining their independence."
Mr Griggs added that reduced specialist support put increasing pressure on survivors' families. "Many who feel unable to continue to care for their loved one may feel they have no option other than resorting to residential care, which can cost thousands of pounds a week."
Nicola Scott sustained a traumatic brain injury when she was knocked down by a car in 2008. After four weeks in intensive care and a further three months in a rehabilitation ward, she was discharged.
Her mother, Susan Osborne, had to leave work to become a full-time carer. "We desperately needed help from specialist brain-injury professionals who could not only help Nicola to understand what had happened, but also to begin the process of relearning the basic life skills that most of us take for granted," Ms Osborne said.
Ms Scott received some temporary help from a neuropsychologist after 18 months, but Ms Osborne believes that rehabilitation, such as speech, language and occupational therapy, would have made her daughter more independent than she is today.
"This would have also meant her being less reliant on state support for the rest of her life," she said.
Brain Injury Awareness week begins on Wednesday.