10th November 2015

Public Accounts Committee progress review inquiry

Services for people with neurological conditions

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has launched a progress review inquiry into services for people with neurological conditions.  The Committee first reported on services to people with neurological conditions in 2012.  It made six recommendations to improve leadership and accountability at the national and local level; to add key indicators and targets to the Framework; to improve the quality of services and reduce variation across the country; to improve integration of services through joint health and social care commissioning; to offer personal care plans; and finally to develop a NICE quality standard for all neurological conditions.

A National Audit Office (NAO) report released earlier this year showed 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 PAC in 2012, the NAO’s report showed that progress has been ‘poor’ against two of four agreed recommendations, and only ‘moderate’ in the other two.  The PAC inquiry will now challenge the Department of Health and NHS England on this poor progress in achieving better services for people with neurological conditions.

The Migraine Trust has submitted evidence to the Committee to inform their progress review inquiry.  We stressed our concern that migraine and headache were omitted from previous reports, something we have vocalised to both the NAO and PAC since 2012, and urge them to address this within their upcoming inquiry.

Our colleagues at the Neurological Alliance have also submitted evidence to the committee and the following letter from Neurological Alliance Chief Executive Arlene Wilkie was published in The Times on Monday, 26 October 2015:

Sir, Today the House of Commons public accounts committee will hear evidence from the Department of Health and NHS England on the state of services for the millions of people who live with neurological conditions such as migraine, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and Huntington’s disease.

From a patient perspective, this scrutiny is long overdue. For far too long, neurology services have suffered from huge regional and local variations in service access and quality. More than a fifth of local commissioning groups provide no neurology services whatsoever within their local area. Services that are available are often fragmented and under-resourced, with patients routinely waiting for more than a year from the first onset of symptoms to see a specialist capable of making a diagnosis. According to a recent survey by the Neurological Alliance, almost 40 per cent of people with neurological conditions have difficulty accessing the services they require.

This situation cannot be acceptable in today’s NHS. I call on the PAC to obtain clear commitments from NHS England and the Department of Health to bring neurology services up to the standards expected of a modern health service.

Arlene Wilkie

Chief executive, Neurological Alliance

*The PAC hearings referred to in the letter were postponed and are now expected to be heard in December 2015/January 2016.

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