The standard of care for UK patients with conditions such as migraines, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease is inadequate to support patient needs, according to a new report.
NHS services for people with neurological conditions are “poorly organised” and do not meet the needs of patients, said the study from the Royal College of Physicians and the Association of British Neurologists.
Patients admitted quickly to hospital because of their condition are rarely seen by a neurologist.
Instead, neurology services in the UK have mainly been focused in large centres of “excellence” which, although producing world-class research, means local services in district general hospitals have suffered.
The study found patients need a range of neurology services at different stages of their illness - acute admission, outpatient care and long-term care.
But those in the NHS are “poorly organised and badly integrated”, leaving many patients unable to access the right specialist at the right time and often far from home.
The UK also has fewer neurologists per had of population than in the US and the rest of Europe (one per 125,000 in the UK versus one per 40,000).
Neurological disorders are very common, accounting for about one in 10 visits to a GP and one in 10 emergency admissions to hospital (excluding stroke).
They cause disability in one in 50 people in the UK and include headache, migraine, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease.
Today’s report recommended better integration of services to create a “neurology network” that is easily accessible for patients.
Neurologist Dr David Bateman, chairman of the working party, said: “The recommendations when implemented will substantially improve local services: many can be achieved at little extra cost mainly by reorganisation of services.
“The Department of Health and commissioners cannot afford to ignore this report.”
Dr Steve Pollock, neurologist and vice-chairman of the working party, said: “This report shows how all services can be brought up to the level of the best and although investment over the next decade will be necessary, the political will of government, NHS management and clinicians to improve the current unsatisfactory position is more important than finance.”