Wheelchairs: moving towards independence

The Sussex Rehabilitation Centre

Sussex Rehabilitation Centre (SRC) is based at The Princess Royal Hospital and treats patients that have suffered moderate to severe neurological damage, often brain damage.

Patients are often unable to walk, talk, swallow. The SRC’s wonderful multidisciplinary team work closely with them and their families to ensure they get back as much independence as possible, and are able to safely return to living in the community.

Regaining independence

The Occupational Therapy team at SRC consider how a patient’s illness has affected their independence. This includes assessing whether a patient can wash and dress themselves, make their own meals, manage their finances, or plan their day in order to participate in other roles such as work, parenting or leisure activities.

They also take into consideration the patient’s mental wellbeing, support networks and home environment.  Everybody’s situation is different and establishing goals with the patient is key to motivation and, in turn, successful rehabilitation.

Thanks to generous donations to BSUH charity, SRC has recently received delivery of eight new wheelchairs.  Senior Occupational Therapist Jane Burrell, who leads the OT team at SRC, answered our questions on the impact the wheelchairs will have on patients. 

BSUH Charity: What kind of patients do you and your colleagues see at the SRC? 

JB: “Our patients are often reliant upon us for all care. We help them start the long journey of rehabilitation. Being able to greet visitors in sitting rather than in bed starts the subtle change from illness to wellness.

“When patients arrive at SRC we assess and provide them with a wheelchair, to enable them to get around the unit. This is the first step towards achieving some independence and offers a glimmer of hope to our patients.

Why did you need more wheelchairs? 

“It is usual practice for wards in BSUH to have access to one or two wheelchairs for an entire ward. We wanted to go above and beyond that standard provision.

“Without a wheelchair patients are unable to get out of bed, go to the dayroom, wheel themselves around the unit and to therapy sessions, spend quality time with friends and family, access the hospital restaurant and gardens. Patients stay for six to twelve weeks, it is essential that they have the freedom to move around.

“To be able to provide the opportunity to be able to choose when and where you want to go has a positive impact on a patient’s ability to engage in rehabilitation.”

What difference do they make for patients? 

“Having enough chairs to offer access to a chair for every patient, and not just share a few between them, as is usually done on wards, is invaluable. It means that our patients have their first taste of some independence.

“They can actively participate in mealtimes, during visiting hours and getting from A to B because the wheelchair has provided a viable alternative to being in bed.”

“The wheelchairs give freedom whilst learning how to walk again, at a challenging time in a patient’s life; a time when they have lost the ability to walk, and for some sit without specialist support.”

What’s your message to those BSUH Charity supporters/patients who donated to BSUH Charity’s Sussex Rehab Centre Fund?

“Thank you so much from the staff and patients, your generosity really makes a huge difference.”

Our thanks to Jane Burrell for answering our questions.

Find out more about supporting BSUH Charity