Neurological care in England criticised by MPs' report

Image of brain in skull Image copyright Science Photo Library

Health services for people with neurological conditions in England are not good enough, says a report from a committee of MPs.

It criticises poorly co-ordinated local services, patchy hospital care and long delays in diagnosing conditions like Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

More than four million people have a neurological condition but few have a care plan, the report says.

The Department of Health said it would consider the recommendations.

The MPs say their report should be taken as a wake-up call, to improve services for what can be devastating or even fatal conditions.

They describe the impact of disparities, for example, in epilepsy care: in south-west Lincolnshire nearly nine out of 10 patients were seizure-free for 12 months, while in Hull and north Manchester it was fewer than five out of 10.

The report recommends that NHS England find a way of tackling the problem of variation in services and explain how it will offer everyone with a long-term condition a personalised care plan.

It also urges NHS England to make better use of the 650 consultant neurologists in England, as well as other specialist nurses, to improve access to care for patients.

Meg Hiller MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "Strong, consistent leadership and accountability are crucial if patients are to see sustained improvements to services and more effective use of the resources available."

She added: "This must start with improvements in planning, co-ordination and the use of data and we will be holding the Department and NHS England to account for this in the months and indeed years ahead."

Although some progress has been made since a previous report in 2012 made recommendations aimed at improving neurological services in England, the report said changes have "not yet led to improvements in services and outcomes for patients".

The committee says it is concerned that neurological conditions are "not a priority" for the Department of Health and NHS England.

Arlene Wilkie, chief executive of the Neurological Alliance, said neurology services need urgent attention.

'Latest technology'

"We urge NHS England and the Department of Health to act quickly to ensure that everyone living with a neurological condition receives a high-quality, accessible service."

She also said she was pleased that the committee agreed that cutting the role of national clinical director for adult neurology would be a mistake.

A Department of Health spokesman said it was committed to giving patients with neurological conditions the very best care, regardless of where they lived.

"We spend over £3bn every year on neurological services, we have set up a new children's national epilepsy service and we are making sure patients with progressive neurological diseases can access the latest technology to help them communicate.

"But we know that more can be done and, along with NHS England, we will consider these recommendations and respond in due course."

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