Neural networks are benefiting primary care professionals by promoting collaboration, as Neil Bindemann explains

The term 'neural networks' has two distinct meanings. First, there are biological neural networks. They are.made up of biological neurons that are connected or functionally related. They often perform a specific physiological function in laboratory analysis. Second, there are.artificial neural networks, used to gain an understanding of biological neural networks or for solving traditional artificial intelligence tasks.

As our brains are comprised of a vast collection of connecting neurons and our thoughts and ideas arise from our brains, it would seem reasonable to extend the meaning of neural network to include groups of like-minded people who share a common interest, particularly if it is in neurology.

The Primary Care Neurology Society is one such network of healthcare professionals, organisations and partnering companies who all share an interest in improving primary care neurology.

One of the society's initial aims has been to generate greater awareness and interest in neurological issues relevant to primary care professionals. By developing such a network, the society is actively encouraging people to share knowledge, enthusiasm and best practice to stimulate advances in the management and care of people with neurological illnesses in primary care.

Dynamic connections

The strength of such a network is in the potential synergy it creates, building a mutually advantageous combination of people where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, an effective network allows for co-ordinated action that can be far more effective than individual actions.

One of the underlying objectives of the society is to establish.a more co-ordinated and collaborative approach between professionals working in primary and secondary care, particularly between GPs and neurologists. The government's drive to stimulate specialist practitioners and services within primary care is therefore encouraging, especially as there are insufficient neurologists to provide an efficient full neurology service in a secondary care setting.

Bringing specialist services into the community should help professional neural networks to connect. It was the opportunity to link with professional networks that drew the Primary Care Neurology Society to the NHS Networks. After all, making connections with such networks can only help the society achieve its objectives.

The society, which was launched in 2005, is a national organisation and has attracted the interest of several organisations and around 1,400 people. Of these, more than 500 are GPs. It recently held a very successful meeting in Birmingham and will be holding its first conference on 1 November in Edinburgh.

For more information.about the society or the upcoming conference, please visit www.p-cns.org.uk.

Neil Bindemann is secretariat director of the Primary Care Neurology Society and managing director of Innervate.