About Chris Symeon
Chris is a Consultant Neuropsychiatrist at St George’s Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust. He leads an inpatient neurorehabilitation service at Queen Mary’s Hospital providing multidisciplinary intervention for patients with functional neurological disorder. Chris completed his training at St Bartholomew’s Medical School, later gaining an MSc in Neuroscience from King’s College London whilst completing his psychiatry specialist training at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
Chris is currently leading on a number of digital transformation and innovation projects.
Problem: Patients diagnosed with functional neurological disorder (FND) often wait up to a year for treatment. During this time, there is usually no other intervention.
Solution: The mainstay of treatment uses CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) techniques; however, these techniques could be incorporated and delivered using digital health technologies that patients could access remotely.
Scale: Only a handful of specialist units across the country provide treatment for this condition, severely limiting access to healthcare. Inpatient rehabilitation usually takes at least 12 weeks, with each admission cost around £50,000. FND patients occupy up to a third of neurology outpatient clinics and are often frequent attenders at hospitals and GP clinics.
Patients with FND have trouble with understanding and accepting their diagnosis and struggle to ‘buy-in’ to the treatment when they are on the ward, adversely affects outcomes.
Desired impact: The project aims to deliver:
- Education: in order for users to improve their understanding of their illness.
- CBT techniques: Promoting monitoring of symptoms with guided interventions to reduce symptom severity.
- Support: Through signposting and peer-support.
With the objectives of:
- Increasing engagement with rehabilitation
- Reducing length of stays on the ward
- Improving functional outcomes (greater independence and lower care burden)
- Potential avoided admissions
- Relapse prevention
Progress to date: Chris pitched the idea at NHS Hackday with an enthusiastic team approach to help build a mock up app. Thereafter Chris built relationships with NHS Digital to advise on regulatory issues and development. He also got support from the charity FND Hope who provided some financial input in app maintenance and marketing. Chris recently pitched to an NHS ‘Dragon’s Den’ whom agreed to fund, prompting him to move forward with illustrators and developers to create the application which is where he is currently to date.