Cerebral Palsy Statistics UK

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Cerebral Palsy Statistics UK

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder that affects muscle control and motor skills, due to brain damage sustained before, during or shortly after a person's birth. It is one of the most common causes of childhood disability, affecting thousands of lives every year.

Because there are many people affected by CP, it is important to create awareness of the potentially life-changing impact this condition can have on people's lives. As such, we have put together a guide to explore the national statistics that demonstrate just how common cerebral palsy is in the UK, and how it can affect the health and wellbeing of those living with it.

Take a look at these cerebral palsy stats to learn more about this lifelong condition.

The prevalence of cerebral palsy in the UK

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term used to describe a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination, caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain. It covers a huge range of non-progressive brain damage, with the mildest forms causing only minor physical impairments, but the most severe leading to significant physical disabilities and severe learning difficulties.

  • Cerebral palsy affects around one in every 400 children in the UK. This means that around 1,800 children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy every year. (source: Scope)
  • Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood. (source: The National Bobath Cerebral Palsy Centre)
  • Approximately 160,000 people are currently living with cerebral palsy in the UK, including 130,000 adults and 30,000 children. This is similar to the number of people living with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. (source: CP Sport)
  • Around two in every 1,000 live births leads to cerebral palsy - a figure that has not changed significantly in the last 40 years. (source: The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence/NICE)
  • Of those with cerebral palsy, 80% suffer from spastic motor impairment, and partial or total hip dislocation occurs in up to 25% of children with cerebral palsy. (source: NICE)

The different types of cerebral palsy

Depending on its causes and symptoms, cerebral palsy can be divided into three different types. Each type affects muscle control differently, and can range in severity:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy - muscle tightness reduces movement and can result in painful spasms
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy - affects speech, breathing and posture, and can result in muscle spasms. This is also known as dystonic, athetoid or choreoathetoid cerebral palsy
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy - primarily affects spatial awareness and the ability to walk, causing balance issues. This condition can also result in difficulty speaking

Additionally, some children will be affected by mixed cerebral palsy, which combines symptoms from multiple types of cerebral palsy. Most commonly, this means the child will experience symptoms of dyskinetic and spastic cerebral palsy simultaneously.

According to statistics from the Council for Disabled Children:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy is by far the most common type, accounting for around 70-80% of all cases.
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy accounts for around 15% of cerebral palsy cases, while ataxic cerebral palsy is much less common, representing around 4% of cases.

How does cerebral palsy affect people?

Because there are several different types of cerebral palsy, the effects of the condition can vary from person to person. This means that some cerebral palsy symptoms are more common than others and that, in some cases, a cerebral palsy condition may lead to different associated conditions.

While data is not available for the prevalence of every major symptom of cerebral palsy, the following statistics underline the fact that people with cerebral palsy will experience the condition in different ways:

  • Six in 10 children with cerebral palsy will develop difficulties with speech, language and communication; those with dyskinetic cerebral palsy are more likely to be affected (source: the Council for Disabled Children)
  • Around half of children with cerebral palsy will go on to develop a learning disability (source: the NHS)
  • Behavioural issues are a symptom affecting around one in four children with cerebral palsy (source: Scope)
  • Around one-third of children with cerebral palsy will also develop epilepsy (source: Scope)
  • Approximately 8% of children with cerebral palsy will develop hearing loss (source: the Council for Disabled Children)

These are in addition to some of the more commonly known cerebral palsy symptoms, which include muscle spasms, weakness and lack of control in the arms and legs, as well as incontinence, constipation, difficulties eating and swallowing, or vision problems. These symptoms can have a wide range of effects on the lives of children and young people, making it difficult for them to receive education, take part in sports and physical activity, form friendships with other children, and manage their own day-to-day needs.

How many cases of cerebral palsy are caused by medical negligence?

A diagnosis of cerebral palsy can have lifelong consequences for children and their families, due to the need to invest in ongoing care and accommodations for their evolving healthcare needs. This is why many parents will choose to claim compensation if their child's cerebral palsy was the result of medical negligence.

Data from NHS Resolution over the decade from 2010-11 to 2020-21 shows that the NHS faces hundreds of these claims every year, resulting in significant amounts being paid out in redress to the families affected:

  • The number of claims closed in this period where the cause was cerebral palsy/brain damage was 2,456 (source: NHS Resolution)
  • The total damages paid by NHS trusts over this 10-year period for primary, secondary or tertiary claims relating to cerebral palsy or brain damage was £4.32 billion (source: NHS Resolution)

These figures demonstrate the scale of the issue of medical negligence leading to cerebral palsy, and the cost associated with providing these children with the care they require by way of compensation. It underlines the need for higher standards and greater accountability among healthcare providers.

What can you do if your child is affected by cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a complex condition that impacts a significant number of individuals and families in the UK. Understanding the prevalence, causes and various aspects of living with cerebral palsy is crucial for raising awareness, and improving support for those affected. By sharing these statistics, we aim to contribute to a more informed and compassionate society that recognises and accommodates the needs of people living with cerebral palsy.

If your family has been affected by the condition, you may benefit from tailored support designed to make life easier for people with cerebral palsy and its associated conditions, as well as their family and loved ones. At JMW, we work with several organisations that may be able to assist you in different ways:

  • The National Bobath Cerebral Palsy Centre (bobath.org.uk) - providers of tailored therapy to help children with cerebral palsy to set goals and manage their everyday challenges more easily
  • CP Sport (cpsport.org) - a national disability sport organisation and charity that organises regular sessions to help people with cerebral palsy take part in physical activity, improve their coordination, and live more active lives.
  • bibic (bibic.org.uk) - a charity delivering therapeutic programmes to disabled people aged six months to 25 years with developmental and neurological disabilities, including cerebral palsy
  • Jolly Josh (jollyjosh.co.uk) - a charity in Rochdale providing support and resources to families with children who have complex medical needs and physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy

If you believe your child has developed cerebral palsy due to the clinical negligence of a medical professional, you may also wish to consider claiming compensation. Specialist care is expensive and difficult to afford and making a compensation claim can provide your child with the financial means necessary to obtain it. It can also be the best way of making sure that those responsible for your child's injury are held to account.

Making a legal claim may seem stressful and complex, but JMW's expert clinical negligence solicitors can help you through the entire process. When you call us, we will assess your situation and explain how we can help you. We will then gather evidence to support your claim and will be able to represent you throughout the entire legal process from beginning to end, making sure that you and your family receive the compensation you deserve.

If your child has developed cerebral palsy due to medical negligence, speak to our solicitors today to get your cerebral palsy compensation claim started. Call us today on 0345 872 6666, or fill out an online contact form, and we will be in touch at a suitable time for you.

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