The National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) has updated its guidance on the assessment and early management of head trauma, highlighting the importance of early detection and prompt treatment to save lives and reduce the risk of disability.

The changes aim to ensure that the NHS has processes in place to diagnose and treat head injuries within specific time frames.

The new guidance suggests that ambulance crews should take anyone with a head injury to a hospital with resuscitation facilities, and patients showing signs of serious or life-threatening injuries should be given a CT scan within one hour.

Patients who are discharged from an A&E unit or observation ward should also be given verbal and printed advice from hospital staff.

Headway, the brain injury association, has welcomed the updated guidance from NICE.

Peter McCabe, chief executive of Headway, said: “In 2010, Headway's own research revealed that the vast majority of hospitals across the UK were failing to provide adequate information on the danger signs to look out for that require an immediate return to hospital. The challenge now is ensuring hospitals actually act on this updated guidance.

“It is also pleasing to see the recommendation that hospital discharge information includes contact details for local organisations - such as Headway groups and branches - that may be of support to patients on leaving hospital. Again though, this is only useful if all patients are given the information.”

Melanie Williams, a serious injury solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “The latest advice from NICE reinforces how crucial a role early diagnosis and treatment is for those with a brain injury.

“Having these new guidelines is welcome but the key is having all those who are to implement them able to do so; able in terms of knowledge and skill but also able in terms of funding and support. We know from those we have acted for that early diagnosis is key in saving lives and reducing the disabling long-term effects of brain injury but the other bit of the jigsaw not addressed here is rehabilitation and on that there is significant work to be done.”