MENTION the term ‘rehab’ these days and most people will think of troubled celebrities checking themselves in for treatment.
But the Central England Rehabilitation Unit at Leamington Spa Hospital is something very different altogether. In fact it is one of ten such centres in the entire country dealing with traumatic brain injuries.
This week Princess Anne officially opened the hospital’s £6.2 million expansion, which has seen it double in size to cope with more patients.
Observer reporter Laura Kearns went along to find out more.
‘A SANCTUARY’ is how one patient describes the Central England Rehabilitation Unit (CERU), and after visiting the state-of-the-art centre it is clear to see why.
An increase in demand saw the unit double capacity from 21 to 42 beds more than a year ago, with patients coming from as far afield as Yorkshire to be treated by specialist doctors, nurses and therapists.
The hospital, based on Heathcote Lane, is the only one of its kind in the Midlands. The most common patients treated there are young men, suffering from brain injuries following car accidents.
But stepping onto the two wards – Campion and Chadwick – it is obvious this is nothing like a regular hospital.
The corridors are double the size in order to fit wheelchairs through, as most patients are unable to walk when first admitted.
Rather than staying in bed all day, patients are encouraged to spend time in the gym or the ‘hub’ community room – full of bay windows, comfy armchairs, board games and a huge television – all donated by families of former patients and local organisations.
And with an average stay of around four months, patients say they enjoy having somewhere to socialise and enjoy ‘normality’.
A former patient, who did not wish to be named, said: “What the unit has done for me has been amazing, it becomes your home. It has to be because you don’t have any alternative. It becomes your sanctuary. I couldn’t have got where I am now without the help I’ve received.”
But it isn’t just the home comforts which makes CERU one of the most sought-after rehabilitation hospitals in the country.
General manager Sue Bleasdale said: “Over the last three years the length of stay has come down from 230 days to 130. Not only is this a fantastic amount but it’s also much less than the national average of 180 days.
“I started here 25 years ago as a nurse and since then have grown to a 42 bed hospital. What we do here is second to none and we are getting excellent results.”
Seeing a surge in the number of people suffering from neurological problems – such as strokes, Parkinsons disease, meningitis and multiple sclerosis – South Warwickshire Foundation Trust (SWFT), who run the hospital, also had a ‘spare’ ward built on the site.
Trust bosses say it was more cost effective to build it at the same time as the extension and will adapt it when needed for brain injury patients or use it as an overflow ward.
And thanks to donations from local residents and organisations, the hospital is nearly fully equipped with specialist facilities including an outdoor area – but more is still needed to make it the home-from-home staff hope it can be.
Visit www.ceru.co.uk to find out more or to donate.
The Princess meets patients at the state-of-the-art unit. (s)
The Princess is shown around by South Warwickshire Foundation Trust chief executive Glen Burley and other staff. (s)
Talking rehab with staff. (s)
CERU staff in the spacious patient hub room. 04.015.006.leam.jm1