Neurology experts have praised a nurse-led multiple sclerosis service to an influential MPs committee, and called for stronger clinical leadership in the Department of Health.
The remarks were made yesterday in a session of the Commons’ public accounts committee, which is currently investigating NHS neurology services.
Dr Steve Pollock, lead clinician for neurosciences in East Kent and clinical acute care advisor for the South East Coast strategic health authority, gave evidence to the committee.
Speaking of his experience in East Kent, he said: “We demonstrated that if you had MS nurses… you could reduce admissions, reduce bed days and free up outpatient time. It was a win-win situation.”
Dr Pollock added: “We were able to design a service not around the neurologist, but around the MS nurse. It was clear that [where MS nurses were put in]… the admissions dropped – the MS nurses were doing it better than we were.”
MS patients in East Kent were now assigned an MS nurse who became their “navigator” through the health service, he told MPs.
Steve Ford, chief executive of the charity Parkinson’s UK, told the committee he wanted to see national level leadership on improving neurology services, such as a national clinical director or “tsar”.
NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson also appeared before the committee. Although he did not commit to appointing a lead clinician for neurology, Sir David acknowledged the success that the Department of Health’s “cancer tsar” professor Mike Richards had achieved in training and supporting local clinicians.
The session was held a day after the Neurological Alliance warned that the UK was facing a “neurology timebomb”. The number of patients with neurological conditions was set to rise sharply over the next decade, but services were still “haphazard”, it said.
A National Audit Office report on neurology, published shortly before Christmas, found that services had got worse over the past five years despite receiving a 38 per cent funding increase.