Brain Injury Service

The Northern Trust Brain Injury Service (NTBIS) is a highly specialist service that provides assessment, treatment and management for those with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). The service treats patients 18 years and over.

The Children’s Community Disability Services (CCDS)  work with children with brain injuries. The Brain Injury Service liaise with the children’s services and work with children who are 16 years upwards, to provide a seamless transition to Adult Services and also to offer specialist advice on the management and support of Acquired Brain Injury if this is required.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is defined as an injury to the brain caused by an identifiable event such as trauma (a blow to the head), hypoxia (loss of oxygen to the brain), metabolic disorders (e.g. unstable diabetes) or infection (encephalitis / meningitis). The term does not include brain injuries that are congenital or induced by birth trauma. It also does not include progressive brain disorders and those that are acquired over time due to alcohol and drug misuse. Though stroke is classified as an acquired brain injury, there are separate services and differing standards/guidelines for stroke survivors.

In addition to meeting the criteria in the above definition, referrals are only accepted if:

  • Acquired brain injury is likely to be the main cause of the person’s presenting problems.
  • There is evidence of the presence of deficits in neurocognitive function.
  • The person has the potential to engage in goal-directed rehabilitation (on-going drug and/or alcohol misuse may prevent a person being accepted into the service).
  • It is deemed that the person will achieve benefits from the NTBIS that cannot be provided elsewhere.
  • The person has not previously been in receipt of brain injury rehabilitation or there are new identifiable and achievable goals.
  • The person lives within the Northern Trust catchment area.

All referrals are considered in keeping with the above criteria. If the person’s suitability for the service is unclear from the referral information, clarification will be achieved through the assessment process.

It is recognised that clinical judgement will be required for a number of people with exceptional, complex presentations to be cared for on a case-by-case basis in partnership with other services. A case may be considered “exceptional” if the symptoms/circumstances are highly unusual for the condition from which the person is suffering and where the expertise for the management of the exceptional difficulties is, in part, held within the Northern Trust Brain Injury Service.

Those who have sustained their injuries recently are likely to have the greatest potential to benefit from rehabilitation.

Where injuries are long-standing, the person may not benefit and so may be considered unsuitable for the service. This will be established through the information provided by the referrer, but also may be considered through the assessment process.

The Brain Injury Service focuses on dealing with the range of deficits caused by acquired brain injury and aims to reduce these allowing the injured person to reintegrate into family, social, education and work situations. The Service is interdisciplinary and provides holistic multidisciplinary assessment and therapy that is generally delivered within one of its centres but may be provided within the client’s home.

Range of services

The NTBIS mainstream service provides comprehensive assessment and therapy for those who have suffered a moderate or severe acquired brain injury. Close links are maintained with any other services that may be involved in the client’s care to allow for accurate diagnosis and best management of deficits.

The Early Intervention Service (EIS) provides assessment for those still in hospital and follow-up visits after discharge. The EIS also delivers a follow-up service for mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) following attendance at the Emergency Department or Short Stay Wards.

The Brain Injury service delivers therapy and rehabilitation programmes both in the community and at a number of bases including Mid Ulster, Ballymena and Whitehead.

The Family Support Service (FSS) is available to all carers of clients known to the service. It provides education, therapy and support through one-to-one input, therapeutic groups or through workshops.

The service involves carers and families in the care and treatment of the service user, unless requested not to (either by the service user or the family).


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