Neuro restart: Let’s work together to achieve a better normal

During COVID-19, vital neurological treatment, care and support has been severely disrupted. Georgina Carr, Chief Executive of the Neurological Alliance, explains why we’re calling for a restart of services as soon as it is safe to do so.

Accessing the right treatment, care and support to manage a neurological condition makes all the difference. Access to the right medicines could mean exhausting and distressing symptoms like pain and fatigue are more manageable. The right rehab after brain or spinal injury is a fundamental component of recovery, helping people to live as well as possible. The right therapies could reduce relapses and even slow down the progression of a condition. And access to the right specialists unlocks so much of this.

But, during COVID-19, so much of this vital neurological treatment, care and support has been severely disrupted – with devastating impacts. People with neurological conditions are amongst the most impacted by the virus, with many self-isolating, shielding, and experiencing high levels of anxiety and loneliness.

In our new report , more than 1,600 people with neurological conditions tell us what life has been like for them during this pandemic. The experiences shared here help cast a light and give a voice to the many who are struggling right now. But their stories also act as a warning of the risks to come if we don’t act. We heard examples of people having received a life changing diagnosis, only to receive no follow-up or support. Key procedures and therapies have been delayed.

Neurological health and care professionals have been doing all they can to provide some support during these unprecedented times, often over the phone or via videoconference. However, as redeployment of professionals has taken hold, many medical appointments have been cancelled or delayed leaving people with neurological conditions or suspected neurological conditions in limbo. This has to change.

And it can change. With the right support and leadership from NHS England and NHS Improvement, together with the passion, drive and expertise of the neurological community, I believe we can turn this around. We need to restart neurology services as soon as it is clinically safe to do so. Immediate action, such as ensuring the return of specialists back to their substantive roles, will help enormously. In the longer term, we need a new National Plan for Neurology that ensures that people with neurological conditions are not left behind in the wake of COVID-19.

I’ve been inspired by the way in which all corners of the neurological community – patient groups, industry, health and care professionals and more – have pulled together during this pandemic, seeking to meet this virus head on.

This collaborative effort has to continue. Only by working together will we move to a new, better normal, where people affected by a neurological condition are able to get the right treatment and support, no matter who they are or where they live. I look forward to working with the neurological community, policymakers and everyone else who shares this vision.

You can read the report here.