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Facial palsy first

A successful multidisciplinary facial palsy clinic, developed by an extended scope practitioner physiotherapist, is to start monthly sessions next month.

The service, based at Queen Victoria Hospital foundation trust in East Grinstead, West Sussex, and thought to be the first multidisciplinary service in the country, has been running clinics every three months since April.

Facial palsy ESP physio Catriona Curtis said while there were other facial rehabilitation practitioners, the clinic was the first to bring together a full team of therapist and consultant specialists.

It aims to offer all treatment modalities for patients with facial palsy in one place, including eye surgery, facial plastic surgery and nerve function assessments, as well as providing physiotherapy and speech therapy and psychotherapy if needed. The clinic is receiving referrals from all over the UK and patients can attend the clinic for up to two years.

Ms Curtis began specialising in facial palsy while working in the trust's musculoskeletal outpatients clinic, where she works part-time, and developed the clinic together with consultant plastic surgeon Charles Nduka.

Both recognised that patients with conditions such as Bell's palsy and complex postsurgical paralysis had little specialist treatment and support available to them.

The development was backed by the trust, and Ms Curtis received training in specialist techniques, including electromyography and trophic electrical stimulation, from one of the UK's pioneers in facial palsy physiotherapy, Diana Farragher.

Ms Curtis is now able to assess patients before and after surgery and advise consultants on appropriate treatments, as well as use electrical stimulation as a treatment. 'There are very few physios in the country offering this service,' she said.

CSP physiotherapist of the year Lorraine Clapham, who works with patients with facial palsy at Southampton General hospital, said she had not previously heard of such a comprehensive service.

She said: 'It's a brilliant idea. It's absolutely vital facial palsy patients see a team that is dedicated to treating all their needs. They do need to be treated differently because the psychological aspects can be so damaging.'

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