The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has today released a report finding that England’s services for people with neurological conditions, like epilepsy, are “consistently not good enough”.
The PAC report has found that there is still “wide variation across the country in access, outcomes and patient experience”. It also informs that “diagnosing neurological conditions takes too long, services in hospitals are variable and local health and social care services are often poorly coordinated”.
Of people with neurological conditions, like Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease and epilepsy, over 40% do not think local services work well together, the report said. Only 12% of people have a written care plan to help coordinate their care.
The report concluded: “It is clear that neurological conditions are not a priority for the Department of Health and NHS England, and we are concerned that the progress that has been made may not be sustained.”
Simon Wigglesworth, deputy chief executive of Epilepsy Action, said: “Sadly we are not surprised to hear PAC’s report that health services for people with neurological conditions, including people with epilepsy, are not a priority for NHS England.
“A couple of years ago, NHS England provided some hope that neurology might at last get some leadership and support by appointing the post of national clinical director for neurological conditions.
“Just two and half years later, NHS England is now threatening to remove that one beacon of hope. We fully support all the PAC recommendations, but most particularly that NHS England retain this role.
“We strongly encourage people with epilepsy and other neurological conditions to contact their MP for them to put pressure on the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt. We urge the minister to save the post of national clinical director for adult neurology. We believe the post is vital to help improve services for England’s 4.7 million people with a neurological condition.”
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said: “This Report serves as a wake-up call to the Department of Health and NHS England. The message from the frontline is clear and central government must listen and learn.
“Our committee heard of unsettling disparities in outcomes for people living with what can be devastating or even fatal conditions. We also heard of the huge knock-on costs the NHS can incur as a result of poor care.
“These are stark findings and doubly alarming when you consider that NHS England could abolish the role of national clinical director for adult neurology. This is a role our inquiry found to have had a positive impact in this important field.
“Strong, consistent leadership and accountability are crucial if patients are to see sustained improvements to services and more effective use of the resources available.
“This must start with improvements in planning, coordination and the use of data and we will be holding the Department and NHS England to account for this in the months and indeed years ahead.”
Progress since 2012
The previous PAC report was published in 2012 highlighting six recommendations to improve services and achieve better outcomes.
In a 2015 report, the National Audit Office found that the Department of Health and NHS England had made ‘good’ progress against just one of the six recommendations. Progress was found to be ‘moderate’ against two of the recommendations and ‘poor’ against the rest.
Today’s PAC report said that there has been some progress made on the recommendations of the 2012 report. However, it added that “these changes have not yet led to demonstrable improvements in services and outcomes for patients”.
Data on NHS spending on neurological services showed a small increase from 2010-11 to 2012-13. However, spending and activity in social care services is assumed to have fallen since 2009-10, according to PAC.
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The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday heard evidence on the state of services in England for people with neurological conditions, including epilepsy. The hearing highlighted what still needs to be done to improve healthcare for people living with epilepsy.