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New therapy suite for specialist rehabilitation service

More patients with a neurological condition that require rehabilitation will benefit from a specialist therapy, thanks to the expansion of Birmingham Community Healthcare’s (BCHC) functional electrical stimulation (FES) service.  

The treatment, which uses electrical stimulation to help the muscles work after nerve damage to the spine or brain, received commissioner funding to expand the team so that it can meet the demand of referrals.

The FES suite, which is based within West Midlands Rehabilitation Centre in Selly Oak, has doubled in size - going from two treatment rooms to four and recruiting two additional members of staff to the now four-strong physiotherapy team.

Patients using FES attach self adhesive patches (electrodes) to the skin which are connected to a stimulator that produces impulses at the right time when walking. 

[ Zoom ]
L-R: chief executive Tracy Taylor with Christine Singleton, patients Alison Freeman and Mark Lloyd, public governor Dr Peter Mayer, patient Norman Phillips and non-executive director John Craggs.
L-R: chief executive Tracy Taylor with Christine Singleton, patients Alison Freeman and Mark Lloyd, public governor Dr Peter Mayer, patient Norman Phillips and non-executive director John Craggs.

It is most commonly used with patients who have had a stroke, head or incomplete spinal injury or have a condition that affect the nerves, such as multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy.    

As a relatively new form of therapy, BCHC's service has already established itself as the second largest FES service in the world. 

Christine Singleton, clinical specialist and service lead, said: “FES has been used in the UK for around 20 years and has been available at West Midlands Rehabilitation Centre for the last 15 years. 

“It has already proved to be a highly effective form of therapy for many of our patients and with this new, larger suite and a bigger team, we are now in a better position than ever before to meet the demand for the service, and raise awareness of the benefits of this type of therapy.”

At the official opening of the new therapy suite, BCHC chief executive Tracy Taylor said: “The FES service is a great example of the innovative, highly specialist services we have within BCHC. With such a high demand for the service, I am delighted that this fantastic new facility will make it even more accessible to patients.”

Mark Lloyd from Redditch has been using FES for three years for a condition known as ‘dropped foot’. After a brain haemorrhage in 2010, Mark was unable to walk properly. Nerve damage in his brain affected his ability to send signals to the muscles in his foot. As a result Mark wasn’t able to lift his foot when he walked, which made him prone to falling over.

After two years of physiotherapy, Mark was referred to the FES service at West Midlands Rehabilitation Centre. Within six months of wearing self adhesive patches on his leg, the stimulation had ‘trained’ the muscles in his ankle to move and lift his foot so he does not trip. 

The 53-year-old grandfather said: “FES has transformed my life completely. In the past, when my grandchildren asked me to come and play I’d have to sit on the sidelines - now I can join in.  It’s given me my independence back.”

“I’m a big advocate for this treatment, alongside physiotherapy. I tried other treatments but they weren’t for me. The service I’ve received from the team has been unbelievable, and thanks to the expansion, I am sure that a great many more patients will benefit.”