People with aphasia have difficulty understanding and using language or speech. It's usually caused by damage to the left side of the brain (for example, as a result of a stroke, a traumatic brain injury or a brain tumour). Symptoms and severity differ from person to person but speech problems are perhaps the most common and obvious. Although aphasia affects a person's ability to communicate, it doesn't usually affect their intelligence.
The new service will provide best-practice care to all suitable adult patients by offering two tailored therapy pathways:
There is currently no dedicated high-dose, in-patient based aphasia neurorehabilitation service in the UK, although a similar model has been trialled successfully in Australia. The high-intensity patients at Queen Square would receive 7.5 hours of therapy per day (a mixture of one-to-one therapy, group therapy, eTherapy, psychological support and vocational rehabilitation), five days a week for three weeks (90 hours in total).
For those patients unable to tolerate high-intensity therapy, the emphasis will be on group work with individuals attending the neurorehabilitation once a week alongside out-patient support using eTherapies.
The programme will be run from Queen Square and led by Jennifer Crinion and Alexander Leff, professors of speech and language therapy and cognitive rehabilitation respectively. They say:
Around 53,000 adults in the UK suffer post-stroke aphasia requiring speech and language therapy each year. At present, these individuals would usually receive four hours of therapy while in hospital followed up by eight hours once they have been discharged. However we, like many clinicians and therapists in the field, believe that 12 hours is inadequate to make a meaningful difference. The evidence base for increased, and in some cases high-intensity, therapy is clear. Patients can continue to improve their language and communicative abilities with the right dose of tailored therapy - no matter how long ago the brain injury occurred. We expect patients treated through both pathways to make significant gains.
Premier League and Ghanaian international footballer, Junior Agogo, suffered a devastating stroke aged just 36. Despite recovering well physically, one of the biggest challenges he faced was his struggle to communicate clearly - leaving him isolated from his friends and former team mates. Agogo, who featured in a BBC4 documentary about his experience, is supporting The National Brain Appeals fundraising campaign. He said:
Since my stroke I have had difficulties with language. Even though I know what words I want to say Im anxious about getting the words wrong. I just want to speak like I did before the stroke, that's all. The High-Dose Aphasia Therapy Service would hugely benefit people like me to overcome these problems.