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People with neurological conditions ‘being failed’ by services according to new surveys

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Two new reports published this week have highlighted the problems facing people trying to access neurological services in the UK

Falling short, published by the Neurological Alliance, reveals that people’s experience of diagnosis, access to specialists and on-going care and support has significantly deteriorated in the last two years.

Meanwhile a report from the Association of British Neurologists (ABN) highlights dramatic variations in access to neurologists across the UK.

The Neurological Alliance is the collective voice of over 80 UK charities, including the MS Trust. They surveyed thousands of people with neurological conditions and found that:

  • 42% of people saw their GP five or more times before seeing a neurological specialist – an increase from 31.5% in 2014
  • People who feel involved in making choices about health services to at least some extent dropped to 63% in 2016 from 71% in 2014
  • Only 56% of people feel their health and care professionals work well together at least some of the time, against 67% in 2014

However, despite these findings, the Alliance is encouraged by the establishment of a National Neuro Advisory Group, and other opportunities for neurology services. They call on the Department of Health and NHS England to commit to improving services.

The ABN survey of acute neurology services found that the likelihood of a patient with a neurological problem being seen by a neurologist continues to vary dramatically depending on where they are admitted. The report finds that:

  • 20% of hospitals surveyed had access to a neurologist on 3 days or fewer per week.
  • Six hospitals had no acute neurology service at all
  • 26% of district general hospitals provided a ward consultation service on 3 or fewer days per week

The ABN welcomes the proposal, currently being considered by NHS England, for a National Strategy for Neurology, but calls for the variations it has found to be addressed urgently and in a properly funded manner.

The MS Trust is very concerned about what these reports reveal about standards of care for people living with MS.  “MS is a complex, unpredictable and long-term condition, and people living with it need access to ongoing neurological care” said Pam Macfarlane, Chief Executive of the Trust. “The reports by the Neurological Alliance and the ABN reveal that too many people are having to manage their MS alone, or with the support of non-neurological, non-specialist health professionals. This can have a severe impact on their health, and can result in expensive, often avoidable emergency treatment. The MS Trust is committed to making sure that no one has to manage MS alone, and we will continue to work within the Neurological Alliance and the ABN to achieve this goal.”