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Neurological care 'hit by lack of leadership'

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A lack of leadership has hampered the health service’s plans to improve the care services on offer to people with neurological illnesses, according to a group of MPs, who want a neurology tsar to be appointed.

The government’s proposals to reform the NHS might cause wide discrepancies between different care providers, the Public Accounts Committee warned, as a result of decentralisation.

Geographic differences in care standards are rife in the UK, the committee’s report indicated, while care services are often badly coordinated.

This is despite the publication of the Department of Health’s 2005 national framework for neurological conditions.

In the three years leading up to 2009-10, the MPs said that spending on conditions like Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis went up by 38%, hitting £2.9bn. And they also noted there was a 32% rise in emergency admissions figures.

While the number of patients suffering from neurological conditions is similar to the number affected by cancer, the committee suggested that poor leadership has stopped the neurological care sector from making improvements similar to those seen in cancer care.

While improvements have been made, committee chairman Margaret Hodge stated: “Unlike the strategies for cancer and stroke, the model used to implement the framework hasn’t worked. The cancer and stroke strategies were headed by a tsar and the department monitored services with clear data against clear targets.”

She added: “For this clinical area, the department left the implementation to local health commissioners but gave them no leadership at all.

“It set no baselines and failed to monitor progress and so could not hold them to account where things went wrong. The present government needs to understand what went wrong here for the future.

“Health and social services are failing to provide an integrated range of services for people with neurological conditions.

“Some areas simply don’t have enough expertise, both in hospitals and the community.

“The department is moving towards a decentralised health and social care landscape. In doing so, it must set clear objectives for joint health and social care outcomes and services for people with neurological conditions.”

<> (NHS board/governance)


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