10th July 2015

Action needed to improve neurology services, NAO report shows

A new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has shown that the government has failed to achieve key objectives for improving services for millions of people with neurological conditions.

Reviewing progress against recommendations made by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2012, the NAO’s report shows that progress has been ‘poor’ against two of four agreed recommendations, and only ‘moderate’ in the other two.

Commenting on the report, Arlene Wilkie, Chief Executive of the Neurological Alliance, said: “Three years on from the Public Account Committee’s report, it is unacceptable that so little progress has been made in vital areas that were identified as needing urgent improvement. It only adds to the sense that people living with neurological conditions are not seen as a priority within today’s NHS. We need action so that the needs of millions of people with complex conditions must no longer be overlooked.”

Key recommendations that have not been achieved include:
  • Access to services: The government has failed to use levers such as the clinical commissioning group outcomes indicator set to improve access to neurology services across the country and as a result neurology is mentioned in only half of local strategies.
  • Improving data: The government has failed to rectify the shortage of neurology data, which means for example that the NHS has no record of the numbers of neurology service users and no effective measure of patient outcomes.
  • Care planning: The government has failed to ensure that everyone with a long- term neurological condition has a care plan which means that their changing care needs are simply not being met.

Neurology services continue to suffer from a range of issues including highly variable access to specialist expertise, long waiting times for diagnosis, poor care planning and coordination, as set out in our Invisible Patients report and the recent acute neurology survey by the Association of British Neurologists. We will now write to the PAC calling for a full review of neurology in light of the NAO’s findings.

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