Emotional support for stroke patients
17 May 2013
Southend University Hospital’s highly-acclaimed stroke unit has received another boost with the appointment of Clinical Psychologist Dr Amy Bartlett. Once again, Southend’s stroke services have shown themselves to be at the front of the field – Dr Bartlett’s appointment came ahead of a call from the Stroke Association for the emotional impact to be given the same priority as physical rehabilitation.
Dr Bartlett's post and that of her community based colleague
were created as a QiPP project, through collaboration with local
service commissioners and providers (Southend CCG, Castle Point and
Rochford CCG, NHS Essex Commissioning Support
Unit,SouthendHospitaland SEPT) with the aim of providing support
throughout the care pathway; hospital and community. Patients are
referred to her by any member of the team caring for the
Dr Bartlett said: "It is well documented that people experience
psychological consequences of stroke, such as depression, anxiety
and may have difficulty adjusting such a significant event in their
life. "While physical effects like limb paralysis and speech
changes are very visible, some changes in the brain do not manifest
themselves as obviously. People are therefore, not only managing
the obvious changes but also those which are more 'invisible' (e.g.
personality, concentration and memory) and often feel frustrated
that they are not seen or easily explained."
She said: "My role is to support people's understanding and
management of the psychological, cognitive and emotional
consequences of what can be a significant life-changing event. It
is not simply about working with the biological outcomes but
acknowledging and normalising the emotional response. A stroke does
not just attack the physical body - it can impact on self-esteem,
self-worth, confidence and identity.
Stroke is an event for which there is no preparation and as such
is often experienced as traumatic and overwhelming. Therefore,
being tearful and worried about the future and experiencing a sense
of loss is a completely appropriate response."
"I also work with family members as stoke does not only affect
the individual who has experienced a stroke but also those who love
and support them. The sense of uncertainty about how an individual
will recover and the adaptation to this is shared by family and
friends. Research and experience shows that it is as
important to support those in a person's network as the person
themselves if the best possible rehabilitation is to be
"As most of my hospital colleagues have not worked in mental
health I can offer knowledge about the psychological
aspects of stroke and support thinking about the best way to work
to support patient's needs."
As well as seeing acute patients on the ward, Dr Bartlett holds
outpatients clinics for those back at home who are trying to adjust
to the changes following stoke.
"I have already had some lovely feedback - people feel very
positive about the service."
Lead stroke consultant, Dr Paul Guyler said: "This is an area of
stroke that is undervalued and unavailable in many parts of the
country. It is so important to help people recover from a stroke -
physically and psychologically - and we are very glad to have Dr
Bartlett, to improve further the quality of our stroke services for