Page last updated at 20:53 GMT, Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Neurological services debate

Peers took part in a debate called by Labour peer Baroness Ford on neurology services in the UK, on 20 November 2012.

Lady Ford told peers there had been a 38% increase in spending on neurological services between 2006-2010 but "no commensurate improvement in outcomes".

She said people received "little or no support" after diagnosis and that ongoing care was "often fragmented and uncoordinated".

Lady Ford, honorary president of Epilepsy Action, also spoke of the "hit and miss nature" of epilepsy services in different parts of the country.

She said the NHS shake-up offered an opportunity to improve neurology services but added: "There is a risk that current service levels, already unacceptable in many parts of the country, will deteriorate."

Lady Ford urged the government to send a "clear message" to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) that long-term neurological conditions "have to be taken seriously and services planned appropriately".

CCGs will oversee the delivery of primary care services in England, under the government's health service reforms.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Jolly told peers she did not think neurological conditions had been made "enough of a priority" in the government's NHS objectives.

She called for a national plan for addressing such conditions and "the creation and sustained support for networks of expertise to inform the commissioning of CCGs".

Opposition spokeswoman Baroness Wheeler said more needed to be done to "allay fear and confusion" about how the new NHS structures will work, and their impact on neurological services.

For the government, Baroness Northover acknowledged that neurological conditions had "not always been well-served in recent years".

She said work was already underway to improve neurology services, following a Public Accounts Committee report which criticised the quality of care and services in the UK.

Lady Northover added that the government was working hard to achieve better integration between health and social care to improve support for people with "complex needs".

Neurological disorders make up about 10% of GP consultations and emergency medical admissions.

They include many different conditions, some very common, such as migraine and multiple sclerosis, and some rare, like motor neurone disease (MND).

A report by the Royal College of Physicians and the Association of British Neurologists last year said many patients with conditions like epilepsy or Parkinson's disease were unable to access specialist care.

The report pointed to a lack of expert doctors in local hospitals and emergency departments.

The government agreed a shake-up of services was needed.

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