Publish date: 14 March 2022

Staff and patients at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) are over the moon with the new facilities and additional space that the refurbishment of the Neurorehabilitation Unit (NRU) has provided. The National Brain Appeal, the charity dedicated to raising funds for the hospital, invested £160,000 to improve the facilities, provide quiet and private spaces for clinical and staff use, and transform the space into a more therapeutic environment.

The NRU is an 18 bedded inpatient unit where individuals stay for three to six months whilst they undertake their rehabilitation, with the aim of optimising their function and enabling them to return home and participate in life roles. 

The day room, where patients spend much of their time, has had a complete makeover. There is a new welcome and reception area, quiet spaces for patients and a dedicated place for them to have their meals, a coffee bar and pantry. The space is also used for specialist groups, such as brain injury, breakfast, communication.

It is accessible for wheelchairs and there is now a dedicated space to store them to avoid the room getting cluttered. Rooms have been opened up to create much more user-friendly areas for patient appointments with therapists and psychologists.

Two narrow rooms have been transformed into a multifunctional space, with a soundproofed partition wall, so it can work for one to ones or opened up into one big space for patient group sessions and multidisciplinary meetings.

A quiet space has also been created for staff, again where two long narrow rooms have been made into one and new workstations installed.

Dr Valerie Stevenson, consultant neurologist and clinical director for rehabilitation, said: “We are delighted and so grateful to The National Brain Appeal for funding the transformation of the NRU. It is a beautiful space, a much more healing environment and is good for both patients and staff wellbeing. We have gained so much space and it has made huge changes to everything we do.”

Patients have also given the refurbishment the thumbs up. John Baker, who is recovering from a traumatic brain injury, said: “I’ve been here six months. The refurbishment has changed the rehab unit in a good way. It is nice, everyone is busy doing their own thing and working hard. I have three weeks left. I wasn’t walking at the start. I decided I was going to walk again and put my wheelchair away. I’ve been busy doing physio, lots of classes. I have exercises for homework. It keeps me active.”

Patient John Baker plays table football with his speech and language therapist Lizzie Farrell in the newly refurbished Neurorehabilitation Unit.jpg
Patient John Baker with speech and language therapist Lizzie Farrell in the newly refurbished unit

Kathleen Callaghan has Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare and serious condition that affects the peripheral nerves. It mainly affects the feet, hands and limbs, causing problems such as numbness, weakness, paralysis and pain and can take several months and in some cases several years to fully recover. Kathleen has been an inpatient for three and a half months. She said: “The unit is a lovely space, nice chairs, really nice. When I first came in I couldn’t do anything. I am making good progress, slowly but surely. I do calligraphy classes in the day room, something I used to do at home. You’ve got to work hard and put the time in yourself, do all the exercises. It is hard work at times but it is good. I’m working hard to get walking, taking my first few steps. I’m hoping to go home at the end of March.”

Patient Kathleen Callaghan with charge nurse Dennis Minoza in the newly refurbished Neurorehabiliation Unit.jpg
Patient Kathleen Callaghan with charge nurse Dennis Minoza in the newly refurbished unit 

To mark the opening of the refurbished unit, the NRU team invited National Brain Appeal chief executive Theresa Dauncey, to cut a ribbon. Theresa said: “It really is a pleasure to see how The National Brain Appeal’s funds have created such a lovely space for patients to rehabilitate and for staff to work in.”