This year The Children’s Trust held its first national paediatric brain injury conference at BMA House (British Medical Association), supported by Irwin Mitchell. This stunning venue, situated in the centre of London, made a particular impact on what was a beautiful summer’s day. The delegates were able to enjoy the historic courtyard gardens and the speakers were delighted to present in the opulent Grand Hall.

The Conference

The conference attracted over 200 delegates including medical, allied health, nursing and legal professionals, in addition to commissioners, community and commercial partners and associated organisations.

After the initial welcome and introductions from Maggie Clancy, Director of Clinical Services at The Children’s Trust, the chair, Dr Andrew Curran, Consultant Paediatric Neurologist, Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, was introduced to the audience. His enthusiasm and passion for children and young people with brain injury encouraged active participation as he successfully steered the day.

The programme was headlined from a patient and parent perspective. The overall theme was rehabilitation and Ryan and his father Mark gave important insights into their experience of residential rehabilitation following Ryan’s acquired brain injury (ABI). They presented a personal and, at times, a very honest account of their placement at The Children’s Trust. Mark and Ryan stressed the value of family support from a variety of sources including tea around the table with other families, the nursing staff in addition to the formal support offered by the psychosocial and therapy teams. They were very engaging and it stimulated a prolonged question and answer time.

A description of the 24-hour multidisciplinary approach to rehabilitation was expertly presented by Maggie Clancy and Dr Carolyn Dunford, Head of Therapy and Research at The Children’s Trust. This session highlighted the importance of a 24 hour collaborative goal-orientated approach to rehabilitation for children, young people and their families.

Invited speaker, Dr Richard Appleton, Consultant and Honorary Professor in Paediatric Neurology, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, reflected on the changes in delivery of rehabilitation following an ABI and the ongoing challenges which prompted some interesting discussions. He shared a best practice exemplar “Jack’s Journey”, from a 2004 Department of Health document which forms part of the National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services. He reminded the audience of its on-going relevance.

This was followed by Dr Jenny Jim, Principal Clinical Psychologist, The Children’s Trust who presented ‘SPECS – seeing brain injury clearly’, a two-day training package which has been developed for all staff working with children & families with ABI. This programme aims to enhance psychosocial care by increasing knowledge and confidence around this complex topic. Preliminary learner feedback has been extremely positive. A number of delegates enquired about commissioning it for their own services.

Lunch provided an excellent opportunity to network and visit exhibitors from a variety of service provider and commercial trade. At this time the delegates were also able to view the poster presentations and talk to the authors.

The afternoon session started with the challenging presentation of Dr Chris Kidson, Consultant Paediatric Intensivist, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. This was a fascinating talk on the ethical dilemmas faced by healthcare professional when making quality of life decisions with children and young people in disorders of consciousness (DOC). He described how complex this topic was when associated with children and their families in comparison to an adult in the acute period after injury and what is in everyone’s best interests. It was very thought provoking and the audience were left giving serious consideration to the content of his talk.

This was followed by a joint presentation by Dr Lorna Wales, Research Professional lead at The Children’s Trust and Nancy McStravick, a parent partner on behalf of the Stroke Association and Royal College of Paediatrics Guideline Development Group. They shared their experiences of developing and disseminating the new Stroke in Childhood Guideline that was launched in May 2017. Nancy made the point that guidelines such as these are crucial and in this circumstance is a guideline that saved her daughter’s life, reminding the audience of the importance of guideline development. The parent involvement in this project was extensive and the ensuing discussions by the delegates served to show the influence parents can have on all guideline development.

The final presentation was delivered by Dr Paramala Santosh, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, King’s College London and visiting Consultant at The Children’s Trust. The focus of his talk was on the personalised neuropsychiatric approach to paediatric ABI which remains a challenging topic.

Dalton Leong, Chief Executive, The Children’s Trust closed this inaugural inspiring day with a summary of the topics reinforcing the importance of the role of rehabilitation for children, young people and their families following acquired brain injury.

Overall, the conference was in a great location on a fantastic summer’s day, ending with a drinks reception in the stunning courtyard. The topics covered were interesting and inspiring and highlighted areas of future research and service development.