Focus on Belfast

Musgrave Park Hospital

Key facts

  • 15 beds
  • 10 Wheelchair Skills sessions per year

Michael – Outreach and Support Coordinator

How did you first get involved with Back Up?

When I had my injury Back Up hadn’t started running the wheelchair skills services. I met someone who came into the hospital I was at to give a talk. After I was discharged I went on a multi activity course in the Lake District where I improved and learnt more wheelchair skills which gave me the confidence to venture out further on my own when I got home and try other activities.

What is your current role?

I work as an Outreach & Support Coordinator which involves working and liaising with spinal centre staff at Belfast, Salisbury, Southport and Stanmore spinal cord injury centres to run wheelchair skills and wheelchair skills extra sessions. I will stay in touch with the patients I have met after their discharge, offering support, information and signposting to other charities organisations when needed.

What is your proudest achievement at this centre?

It was the first centre to run wheelchair skills extra before it was rolled out to all the other centres.

What is the biggest challenge or frustration facing you at this centre?

Because I only go there 4 times a year and for other staff members such as family O&S to visit it is harder to arrange compared to just driving or getting on a train to visit other centres. For this reason, we may not be supporting as many people as I would like.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing, what would it be?

A lot of people in Northern Ireland live in remote areas so struggle to get back to the centre. They are always invited back to the spinal centre to attend WCS and WCSE as they may have missed the sessions while they were in-patients. I would like my magic wand to magic them transport to join us on these sessions, so more people gain confidence with their skills.

Martin McNeill – Volunteer Wheelchair Skills Trainer


How did you get involved with Back Up?

I first came across Back Up at the Interspinal Unit Games at Stoke Mandeville. I had a puncture and Sean McCallion gave me a tube and then explained what Back Up did.

What is your current role?

I am currently a Volunteer Wheelchair Skills Trainer at Belfast Spinal Unit and on courses. I am also a volunteer Group Leader.

What is your proudest achievement at this centre?

Really pushing a few of the more able patients to see that a wheelchair is capable of a lot more than they think.

What is the biggest challenge or frustration facing you at this centre?

This Spinal Unit generally runs well and the complementary skills that Michael and I have also benefits the patients. We have recently received funding from MITRE for new WCS equipment. My biggest frustration would probably be that there seems to be very little input from the Physio Dept, apart from sending the odd student who happens to be on rotation to the sessions.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing, what would it be?

More funding for support from Back Up to do more.

Probably a follow on from 4 in that since patients are getting discharged earlier and earlier during their rehab, a collaborative approach from OT, Physio and Nursing Staff would benefit the patients greatly. The WCS sessions in Belfast seem to be driven by OT – maybe this is the same in all units, I don’t know. Michael comes into the unit and speaks with the nursing staff but I’ve rarely if ever seen one at the sessions.

Another wish is that another para skills trainer could be trained to share the load with me – I know that this is already underway with Alastair McSorley.