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MPs agree neurological services need improving

Author: MS Trust

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published its report on services for people with neurological conditions, and recognised that both national and local services lacked leadership, drive, focus and direction.

Services for people with neurological conditions have been previously identified as being poor. In December 2011, the National Audit Office (NAO) report found that while there have been some improvements in neurology services since the publication of the National Service Framework (NSF) for Long-Term Conditions in 2005, services remain well below the quality requirements set out in the Framework.

The recent PAC report suggests national and local leadership in neurology is improved and for neurology specific measures to be included in many of the new frameworks and guidelines that are being set up as part of NHS reforms.

The key findings of the report found that:

  • The National Service Framework for long-term conditions lacked leadership at both national and local level, which led to a lack of impetus, focus and direction for services.
  • The quality of services for people with neurological conditions varies around the country.
  • Health and social services are poorly integrated for people with neurological conditions.
  • Individual care is often poorly coordinated with personal care plans not being available to everybody with a neurological condition.

These findings are similar to those from a recent audit of multiple sclerosis services from the MS Trust/Royal College of Physicians, which highlighted a number of concerns regarding inadequate information for newly diagnosed people, fragmented care and poor coordination between health and social services, variability in access to services around the country.

The PAC recommendations have been welcomed by the Neurological Alliance, an umbrella group for more than 50 charities, including the MS Trust, who support people living with a neurological condition, recognises that the needs of many people with neurological conditions are being ignored or inadequately addressed.

The Neurological Alliance identify that the concerns of MPs on the PAC are similar to those suggested by charities, and have stated provision is 'well below [the] quality' set out by the Department of Health in 2005 and 'lags behindÂ…cancer and stroke care'. In January 2012, the Neurological Alliance called on the government to introduce a national strategy for neurology and asked people to raise awareness of these concerns by writing to their MP in support of this. The next phase of the campaign will be to call on the government to implement the recommendations made by the PAC ahead of the government's formal response to the PAC later in the spring. Full details can be found on the Neurological Alliance website

Currently more than 8 million people live with a long-term neurological condition in the UK, around 100,000 with MS. Each week, 50 people are diagnosed with MS.

The MS Trust welcomes this report from the Public Accounts Committee, and we now need to see action on these recommendations.

Our own audit reports with the Royal College of Physicians have consistently shown that access to treatments and services for people with MS are far from ideal and frameworks and guidelines do not work without clear targets and accountability.

This is an opportunity to really improve services for people with MS and other neurological conditions

Pam Macfarlane Chief Executive of the MS Trust
House of Commons PAC report: Services for people with neurological conditions
National Audit Office Report - Services for people with neurological conditions
Neurological Alliance website
MS Trust/RCP Audit of MS Services
Implementation of neurological services remains patchy
Neurology time bomb facing the NHS
A better deal for neurology