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GPs have little confidence in primary care neurology services

And most don’t think patients get specialist help quickly enough

Caroline White

Monday, 15 August 2016

GPs in England have little confidence in the ability of local services and systems to manage neurology patients effectively, amid additional concerns about unnecessary delays, reveals a report published today by the Neurological Alliance, a partnership of more than 80 national and regional organisations.

As of 2014, the estimated number of neurological cases in England was 12.5 million, or the equivalent of 59,000 cases per CCG nationally.

The Neurology and primary care report which assesses the state of primary care neurology services, principally in England, includes the results of a survey of 1,001 regionally representative GPs from across the UK (England, n=831) as well as the findings of an expert workshop convened in December 2015.

The report found that most (85%; 708) GPs in England are either ‘somewhat concerned’ or ‘extremely concerned’ about the time taken from referral for patients to see a consultant neurologist.

Over half (59%; 492) of respondents believe that the local services and systems in place in their area mean that people with neurological conditions frequently do not receive a timely diagnosis.

And most GPs in England (84%; 701) feel that they could benefit from further training on identifying and managing people presenting with suspected neurological conditions.

Fewer than half of GPs polled (47%; 392) felt confident in their ability to make an initial assessment and referral for people presenting with signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Among its key recommendations, the report suggests convening key neurology stakeholders to devise a checklist of the 10 indicative signs and symptoms GPs should look out for.

It also calls for support to improve the confidence of GPs in making an initial assessment and referral for people presenting with the different signs and symptoms of neurological conditions. This would include the Introduction of NHS England national minimum access standards and the roll-out of commissioning for value data packs.

Such initiatives would hold commissioners and service providers to account to ensure that patients are not disadvantaged from accessing neurological services due to their geographical location, says the report.

Funding for Public Health England and NHS England to support the Neurology Intelligence Network in collating and publishing data on service access for neurological patients should be ring-fenced, it says.

Alliance Chief Executive, Arlene Wilkie, said: “The polling data released today clearly shows a deeply worrying lack of confidence in the primary care pathway for people with neurological conditions.

“It is essential that NHS England and the Department of Health respond to these findings and engage with the concerns of GPs and people living with neurological conditions. Without an effective pathway through primary care, patients will continue to suffer the consequences of undue delays to referral, diagnosis and treatment, and outcomes will continue to suffer.”

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