New role helps a complex patient group

Ellen Triggs is the first at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (NHS FT) to take on a brand-new role as the South-East London Adult Clinical Spinal Cord Injury Link Worker.

Ellen TriggsEllen joined King’s College Hospital in January 2023 after working as a Physiotherapist for nine years, first in Mid and South Essex NHS FT and more recently at Queens Hospital in Romford where she specialised in neuro intensive care, neurology and neurosurgery. 

Ellen tells us more about what her attracted to the role, how her first six months have gone and her plans for the future. 

What is the aim of your role? 

This role is to provide high-quality, patient-oriented care for patients diagnosed with a spinal cord (SCI) injury, both as a result from traumatic and non-traumatic events. Whilst I am based at King’s College Hospital, I work across the south east of London liaising with the trauma units in the area, as well as working closely with Stoke Mandeville - the national SCI centre. In addition, I also work collaboratively across the London SCI Network for the benefit of SCI patients, their families and colleagues supporting an integrated network model of care as part of a wider team of staff. 

My role helps colleagues working at the southeast London trauma units that do not have specialist spinal nurses to deliver expert specialist care to patients who have sustained a SCI. I also work closely with link workers across London and we have many working groups all aiming to ultimately improve training and education across the London SCI Network. 

A big part of this role is working with colleagues across the SCI Network including specialist nursing staff from the Spinal Injuries Association, to help deliver specialist care and advice to patients that attend the SCI centres. 

What was it that excited you most about this new role?

I developed a special interest in helping SCI patients in my previous role as a physiotherapist working in intensive care where I treated many patients with SCIs. Together with the excellent training and teaching I received from the London Spinal Cord Injury Centres, I was able to expand my knowledge in SCI care and management. This made me passionate about helping this patient group, ensuring they receive the correct care especially when it comes to their bowel, bladder and skin management which is complex for these patients. 

In addition, this role appealed to me as it is part of a large quality improvement project aiming to improve care for this patient group. As part of this project, I have been working closely with the Quality Improvement team at King’s College Hospital NHS FT. This Quality improvement project is aimed at improving the bowel management for spinal cord injury patients, I have been lucky enough to have representation from a large number of teams at the Trust including the continence team and my spinal nursing colleagues. 

What have been the main highlights of the role so far? 

In my first six months in this new role, I have spent a lot of time getting to know colleagues and stakeholders working in different areas of the Hospital to understand the work they do and what support I can offer them when treating SCI patients. I am really grateful for the support that colleagues have given me in this new role, helping me to settle in quickly. 

For me the best part of this role is treating the patients, being able to help them understand what has happened and give them, and their families, advice and management techniques to help them become more independent with their day-to-day activities. Explaining something that the patient didn't understand before and helping them make sense of it - so they feel calmer and better informed- that is the most rewarding part of the role for me. 

What motivated you to speak at the neurorehabilitation seminar and what was the outcome? 

The neurorehabilitation seminar was a great opportunity for Dr Emer Mcgilloway and I to explain about the London Spinal Cord Injury Project, the aims and objectives of the Network and where it is heading. Dr Mcgilloway is one of the rehab consultants at the Trust who has been heavily involved in setting up the Spinal Cord Injury Project for London. Over the last six months we have worked closely together reviewing patients weekly and developing the service. Therefore, we wanted to make people aware of the new roles across London and what support the service can provide to our colleagues, how to contact me and how to refer patients to me. 

We also wanted to share the learning points from a recent case study where both me and the treating team at King’s College Hospital learnt a lot and we wanted to share the research and evidence so hopefully best practice can be improved going forwards. 

There was quite a lot of engagement after our talk, one of the people that was listening from Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust actually went on to attend the quality improvement working group so we got an extra member, which was brilliant.

If you are interested in joining the quality improvement working group, please email me

What help and support can you provide to colleagues? 

As the only Adult Spinal Cord Injury Link Worker for the Ssouth -eEast of London there are limitations to how much I can do, but I want clinicians from all professions who work with SCI patients to contact me as soon as they are aware of them. I can provide support and advice to them about treating these patients and provide access to excellent resources through the learning hub for SCI patients. 

What is the learning hub and how can colleagues access it? 

The learning hub was created by Emma Cook the SCI Education Lead for London and Dr Jackie McRae a Clinical Academic Speech and Language Therapist with a special interest in SCI. The learning hub contains resources on everything Spinal Cord Injury related and is constantly being updated. It contains a whole range of resources that most clinicians could benefit from when treating SCI patients. 

How can colleagues contact you? 

I want to encourage colleagues to contact me as early as possible if you are treating SCI patients. I can be contacted via email: or reach out to The King’s Health Partners Neurosciences team have an ambitious vision to use our collective clinical, research, and educational expertise to deliver world-class patient care and research.