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NHS warned of 'neurology timebomb'

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The NHS is facing a “neurology timebomb” as the number of people with conditions such as Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease (MND) increases, experts have said.

New figures from Parkinson’s UK show there will be 28% more people with Parkinson’s disease by 2020.

There are currently around 127,000 people with the disease - which affects actor Michael J Fox and boxing legend Muhammad Ali - but this figure is expected to reach 162,000 by 2020.

The number suffering MND is also set to rise by 27% in the same period.

Currently 50 people are also newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) every week.

The Neurological Alliance, which represents more than 70 charities and organisations, said a neurology timebomb will catch the NHS unawares unless urgent action is taken. It also accused the government of having its “head in the sand”.

The alliance argues that services are being run in a “haphazard way” with no clear strategy in place, and billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is potentially being wasted.

It follows a damning report in December from the National Audit Office (NAO) which found emergency hospital admissions for people with neurological conditions have risen by almost a third despite a huge government financial investment in services.

The study said while access to services has improved and waiting times have fallen, key areas of care have got worse.

In 2009/10, 14% of people with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and MND who were discharged from hospital after an overnight stay were readmitted within 28 days as an emergency.

People admitted as an emergency are also often treated by doctors and nurses with no neurological training, with evidence suggesting this worsens outcomes for patients.

Furthermore, the report found delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Steve Ford, chair of the Neurological Alliance and chief executive of Parkinson’s UK, said: “The situation can only get worse.

“A crisis is looming but the government has its head in the sand.

“When it comes to helping vulnerable people with a neurological condition the government is floundering around in a fog of its own making.

We need a leader to champion improvements - a neurology tsar, if you like, backed up with a plan and a strategy.

“When diabetes, cancer and stroke were assigned tsars, things really started to happen.

“People affected by neurological conditions are fed up with being at the bottom of the government’s ‘to do’ list.

“It is time the Department of Health sorted out this mess. It’s not about spending more money: it’s about getting good value and quality services.”

Mr Ford will give evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee in light of the NAO report.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the MS Society, added: “The government now needs to send a clear message to everyone living with a neurological condition that these services are a priority.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I couldn't agree more!! As a Palliative Care Nurse Specialist AKA Macmillan Nurse, more often we are being referred people suffering with MND in particular, I say suffering because unfortunately people are suffering!! There are not the same 'referral pathways' for MND as there are for MND and other neurological conditions. There are nowhere near as many CNS's to support Pt's and their families from diagnosis and an overall lack of understanding of these conditions resulting in a lack of support services. It is rarely known that these Pt's should have the same access to palliative care services as those with cancer, and when they do get access it is usually as a result of a crisis and is too late to make a significant impact. The same could be said for those with end stage COPD, Heart failure, renal failure & dementia. However I completely agree that with neurological conditions on the rise the Government need to act now and factor this in to the changes that they seem so damn keen to make!

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