Gill-Thwaites & Elliott Consultants Ltd

About Us

Gill-Thwaites & Elliott Consultants Ltd is a unique consultancy specialising exclusively in Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness (PDOC), specifically Vegetative State (VS) and Minimally Conscious State (MCS).

Our consultancy has been conceived in recognition of the need for a comprehensive service to meet the particular requirements of the individual with a PDOC, their family/friends, their supporting team/carers, case manager and specialist lawyers.

Our Consultants

Our consultants possess an extensive range of experience and expertise accumulated over years of work in this specialist clinical field. We have established an elite team to ensure our consultancy can provide a wide spectrum of services for this unique client group. Among our consultants are the three SMART inventors/developers, referred to as SMART Masters, who are the most highly qualified SMART assessors in the world. There are four different levels of SMART accreditation. Practitioners at the top two levels, SMART Masters and Expert SMART Assessors, can conduct complex medico-legal work. We also have Advanced SMART Assessors who are qualified to carry out assessments to identify future treatment and therapeutic programmes.

Helen Gill-Thwaites MBE, MSc, Dip COT
Helen

Helen Gill-Thwaites, a SMART Master, has worked at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability (RHN) in London since 1989 and in this time has developed considerable experience in the assessment of VS and MCS patients. Helen was head of the Occupational Therapy department from 1994-2005. Together with Ros Munday and Karen Elliott, she has dedicated her work to the development of the SMART tool, which has been designed to detect potential awareness in the VS and MCS patient. Andrews et al (1996) reported that of 30 patients admitted with a diagnosis of VS, 43% were found to be aware following an assessment with SMART. To standardise the tool, Helen has conducted a range of research studies, published papers in medical journals (see References), designed and led SMART assessor accreditation courses, and presented at conferences worldwide. Helen has also developed SMART Tracker for use in research and acute settings, and led the review of the new version of SMART.

In the Royal College of Physicians’ guidelines, SMART is recommended in the law courts as a tool of choice to support expert physicians in their diagnosis of the patient.

In 2000, Helen jointly won the BBC People’s Award for Innovation with her colleague Ros Munday. She was appointed as an International Fellow at the Institute of Neuropalliative Rehabilitation (RHN) in 2003. In 2011, Helen received an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List. She was a member of the Royal College of Physicians’ working party that revised the guidelines on the management of patients with PDOC. She has conducted a number of medico-legal SMART assessments and acted as an Expert Witness on several prominent cases in the Royal Courts of Justice.

Karen Elliott PhD, MSc, Dip COT, Cert Ed
Karen

Karen Elliott, a SMART Master, qualified from the London School of Occupational Therapy. She took up a post in 1985 at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability (RHN), where she was based until 1994. During that time she worked primarily on the Profound Brain Injury Unit with patients in VS and MCS.

In 1987, Karen pioneered the setting up of the Occupational Therapy services on the first Brain Injury Unit in the UK. She initiated the development of a sensory stimulation programme to meet the needs of the patients being admitted to a pilot Profound Brain Injury Unit at the RHN. This was developed over the years to include both an assessment and treatment programme, which has been subsequently standardised to the SMART assessment used today. The early development of this assessment included a 3-year project in collaboration with the University of Surrey into ‘The Efficacy of Sensory Stimulation’. The project generated a range of papers (see References), which utilised early assessment protocols and enabled refinement of the assessment tools through analysis of research and growing experience of the therapists. Karen was head of the Occupational Therapy department, and her involvement in research with patients in VS led to her undertaking a Master’s degree in research methods at King’s College London. On leaving the RHN, Karen became Course Director of Occupational Therapy at Colchester Institute.

In 2006, Karen took up a post as Research Fellow in Occupational Therapy at the Institute of Neuropalliative Rehabilitation (RHN), which brought a return to her primary interest in PDOC. The research led to her completing a PhD in 2011 on ‘The Impact of Low Awareness States on the Occupational Life of Family Members’.

Karen was a member of the Royal College of Physicians’ working party that revised the guidelines on the management of patients with PDOC. She works part-time as a Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at the University of East Anglia.

Liliana da Conceição Teixeira MSc, OTL
Liliana

Liliana da Conceição Teixeira is an Expert SMART Assessor, and qualified in 2002 as an Occupational Therapist. She worked in Paediatrics in Portugal until moving to London in 2005, where she took up a post at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability (RHN). She worked on the Profound Brain Injury Unit where she developed extensive skills in the assessment and treatment of patients with PDOC. As a result of this experience, she has produced a prominent publication (see References).

Liliana completed an MSc in Neurorehabilitation in 2010 at Brunel University; having carried out research to identify whether behavioural observations made during the SMART assessment can detect the potential for later emergence from VS. She was invited to become a guest Occupational Therapy Lecturer at the University of Porto, and since 2010 she has been dividing her time between Porto and London. Liliana has considerable experience in conducting a range of medico-legal SMART assessments.

In September 2015, Liliana started a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Porto. She is a member of the SMART Expert/Advanced Assessors Committee.

Susanna Kriel BOcc Ther
Ros

Susanna Kriel, an Expert SMART Assessor, qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 2002 from the University of the Free State in South Africa. She has worked in the UK since 2004. Susanna has gained experience working within the field of Neurology in different settings, including acute hospital wards, in-patient rehabilitation and community neurorehabilitation; as a result, she has a special interest in complex neurological conditions. She became a Senior l Occupational Therapist at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability (RHN) in 2010, and spent five years on the Profound Brain Injury Unit. Leading the Occupational Therapy team, she developed highly specialist skills in the assessment, treatment and management of complex neurological conditions: specifically, caring for patients with PDOC.

She is highly proficient in the application and use of SMART and, consequently, has co-led SMART courses, participated in clinical research projects, and managed the team of SMART assessors and the accreditation process for SMART assessors worldwide.

Susanna is currently practising as an Occupational Therapist on neurosurgical and neurorehabilitation units in London. She continues to be involved in SMART developments as a member of the SMART Expert/Advanced Assessors Committee, and as an educator on SMART courses.

Anisa Cassim BSc (Hons) OT
Anisa

Anisa Cassim, an Advanced SMART Assessor, qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1999 from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. She spent the first three years of her career in South Africa, practising in acute and rehabilitation settings in Paediatric and Adult Neurology in one of the largest hospitals in the southern hemisphere. Her Paediatric involvement also included working with patients with developmental delay, learning difficulties, and traumatic and non-traumatic brain injury. This invaluable experience in South Africa laid the foundation for her decision to specialise in Neurology when she moved to the UK in 2003.

Once based in London, Anisa started working at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability (RHN) as a Senior ll Occupational Therapist on the Profound Brain Injury Unit. This role allowed her to consolidate the knowledge and skills gained in the assessment and treatment of patients with neurological conditions, particularly PDOC. Subsequently, Anisa became a Senior l Occupational Therapist for four years, supporting therapists in the management of patients with profound brain injury. While at the RHN, she has also developed skills in treating neurobehavioural and ventilator-dependent patients.

As a Clinical Specialist, Anisa now divides her time between working at the RHN and in the private sector. Anisa is involved in SMART developments as a member of the SMART Expert/Advanced Assessors Committee, and assists with SMART courses.

Hannah Jones-Reynolds BMedSci, RCSLT
Hannah

Hannah Jones-Reynolds is an Advanced SMART Assessor, and qualified in 2011 as a Speech and Language Therapist from the University of Sheffield. Her work involves patients with complex neurodisability, including severe brain injury, and she has gained extensive experience in PDOC. As an Advanced SMART Assessor, Hannah carries out in-depth analysis using SMART and formulates appropriate treatment plans.

She is competent in facial oral tract therapy (FOTT) techniques and frequently uses this approach in her practice, in order to assess and treat facial and oral muscle movement. Hannah uses therapeutic eating techniques to improve a patient’s ability to swallow. Skills in these areas provide a unique approach in caring for patients with PDOC.

Hannah has considerable expertise in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and management of patients with a long-term tracheostomy. She specialises in communication and swallowing difficulties.

She has experience in working on medico-legal cases where SMART assessments have been conducted and continues to use SMART in her current clinical practice.

Standards of Practice

As professional practitioners, our consultants are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), the British Association of Occupational Therapists (BAOT) and the College of Occupational Therapists (COT). As registrants of these professional bodies, we adhere to the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (COT) and the Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (HCPC). All consultants working for Gill-Thwaites & Elliott Consultants Ltd will have professional membership of their relevant monitoring body.

 

Quality Assurance and Feedback of Complaints

Gill-Thwaites & Elliott Consultants Ltd strives at all times to provide a high standard of practice and an excellent service to our clients. We would encourage clients to give feedback at any time either verbally or in writing, using the online enquiry form. Following the completion of one of our services we routinely send an evaluation form to ensure that we are meeting our client’s needs. A Managing Director, not involved with the case, will review the forms and implement any required actions. This will form part of the auditing process. If a client is unhappy and wishes to complain, we would ask that they contact us either by letter or using the online enquiry form. Any complaint will be acknowledged within three working days, and will then be investigated fully by either Helen Gill-Thwaites or Karen Elliott.

References by Gill-Thwaites & Elliott Consultants

Andrews, K., Murphy, L., Munday, R. and Littlewood, C. (1996) Misdiagnosis of the vegetative state: retrospective study in a rehabilitation unit.

British Medical Journal, 313, 13-16.

Blacker, D., Broadhurst, L. and Teixeira, L. (2008) The role of occupational therapy in leisure adaptation with complex neurological disability: a discussion using two case study examples.

NeuroRehabilitation, 23(4): 313-319.

Gill, H. (1996) SMART and persistent vegetative state, part one.

British Journal of Occupational Therapy: Occupational Therapy News – 4/9 October.

Gill, H. (1996) SMART and persistent vegetative state, part two.

British Journal of Occupational Therapy: Occupational Therapy News – 4/10 November.

Gill-Thwaites, H. (1997) The Sensory Modality Assessment and Rehabilitation Technique – a tool for assessment and treatment of patients with severe brain injury in a vegetative state.

Brain Injury, 11: 723-734.

Gill-Thwaites, H. and Munday, R. (1999) The Sensory Modality Assessment and Rehabilitation Technique (SMART): a comprehensive and integrated assessment and treatment protocol for the vegetative state and minimally responsive patient.

Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 9(3/4): 305-320.

Gill-Thwaites, H. and Munday, R. (2004) The Sensory Modality Assessment and Rehabilitation Technique (SMART): A valid and reliable assessment for the vegetative state and minimally conscious state patient.

Brain Injury, 18(12): 1255-1269.

Gill-Thwaites, H. (2006) Lotteries, loopholes and luck: misdiagnosis in the vegetative state patient.

Brain Injury, 20(13-14): 1321-1328.

Gill-Thwaites, H. (July 2011) Letter to Editor in response to article by American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, Brain-Injury-Interdisciplinary Special Interest Group, Disorders of Consciousness Task Force.

Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 92(7): 1181-1182.

Jones, S.J., Vaz Pato, M., Sprague, L., Stokes, M., Munday, R. and Haque, N. ( 2000) Auditory evoked potentials to spectro-temporal modulation of complex tones in normal subjects and patients with severe brain injury.

Brain, 123: 1007-1016.

MacKenzie, S., Gale, E. and Munday, R. (2006) Putney Auditory Single Word Yes/No Assessment. Development of a reliable test of yes/no at a single word level in patients unable to participate in assessments requiring a specific motor response: an exploratory study.

International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 41(2): 225-234.

Majerus, S., Gill-Thwaites, H., Andrews, K. and Laureys, S. (2005) Behavioural evaluation of consciousness in severe brain damage.

Progress in Brain Research, 150: 397-413.

Millwood, J., MacKenzie, S., Munday, R., Pierce, E. and Fiske, J. (2005) A report from an investigation of abnormal oral reflexes, lip trauma and awareness levels in patients with profound brain damage.

Journal of Disability and Oral Health, 6(2): 72-78.

Munday, R. (2005) Vegetative and minimally conscious states: how can occupational therapists help?

Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 15(3/4): 503-513.

Turner-Stokes, L., Kitzinger, J., Gill-Thwaites, H., Playford, E.D., Wade, D., Allanson, J., Pickard, J. and Royal College of Physicians’ Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness Guidelines Development Group (November 2012) fMRI for vegetative and minimally conscious states.

British Medical Journal, 345:e8045.

Wilson, S.L., Powell, G.E., Elliott, K. and Thwaites, H. (1991) Sensory stimulation in prolonged coma: four single case studies.

Brain Injury, 5(4): 393-400.

Wilson, S.L., Powell, G.E., Elliott, K. and Thwaites, H. (1993) Evaluation of sensory stimulation as a treatment for prolonged coma – seven single experimental case studies.

Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 3(2): 191-201.

Wilson, S.L., Powell, G.E., Brock, D. and Thwaites H. (1996) Vegetative state and responses to sensory stimulation: an analysis of 24 cases.

Brain Injury, 10(11): 807-818.

Wilson, S.L., Brock, D., Powell, G.E., Thwaites, H. and Elliott, K. (1996) Constructing arousal profiles for vegetative state patients – a preliminary report.

Brain Injury, 10(2): 105-113.

Wilson, S.L. and Gill-Thwaites, H. (2000) Early indications of emergence from vegetative state derived from assessment with the SMART – a preliminary report.

Brain Injury, 14(4): 319-331.