Stronger foundations: transforming neurological care
Luis who is living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2, a rare neuromuscular condition
In the UK, one in six people are living with at least one neurological condition, but a fragmented approach to care means they are often unable to access the treatments that they desperately need. Ahead of the release of a major new report, PoliticsHome explores how leading experts are calling for a new approach that can help the UK develop neurology services fit for the future
The lack of a clear strategy to underpin the treatment of neurological conditions means the nation is failing to reap the benefits that new approaches and therapies could bring.
That is one of the key findings of a major new report scheduled to be released at a parliamentary event at the end of February. The report, produced by experts at The Economist Impact Unit and commissioned by leading pharmaceutical company Roche, sets out the costs, impacts, and solutions that can ultimately transform the way we care for those living with neurological conditions.
Marius Scholtz, chief medical officer at Roche Products Ltd UK, hopes that the findings will act as a wake-up call for policymakers. He told PoliticsHome that implementing the findings of the report would lead to better coordination of care, benefiting millions who are living with a neurological condition and reducing the economic cost to the nation.
In particular, Scholtz highlights the pressing need for visible leadership and a coherent strategy that is shared by government, industry, and the health sector.
“There have been past initiatives to address individual conditions but those can only really be effective if there is a shared foundation in place that understands the needs of neurology across the board,” Scholtz tells PoliticsHome. “A strategy is not simply about improving coordination. It would ultimately open up better access to care for the millions of Britons who are currently living with a neurological condition.”
The need for better coordination across neurology as a whole is increasingly urgent. Around one in six people in the UK are living with at least one neurological condition and with an ageing population that figure is set to rise. To get ahead of that growth curve, the report highlights the need for a clear plan to underpin the delivery of high-quality neurology care for conditions ranging from Parkinson's to epilepsy.
Patient representative bodies agree that strategy and coordination are essential if we are to unlock better care pathways for patients. The Neurological Alliance, which brings together over 100 member organisations, is one of the bodies calling for change.
Georgina Carr, chief executive at The Neurological Alliance, told PoliticsHome that the Alliance’s own research has revealed the challenges patients sometimes face navigating a confusing maze of services.
“Despite affecting millions of people and costing billions of pounds, too often people affected by neurological conditions are unable to access the services and support necessary to meet their needs,” Carr explains, highlighting the impact of the current strategic gap. “We’re calling on the UK government to establish a Neuro Taskforce to provide the cross-governmental prioritisation and framework necessary to address these challenges and transform services and support for the one in six people with a neurological condition.”
Some parliamentarians are also supporting the call. Labour MP Charlotte Nichols who chairs the APPG for Multiple Sclerosis has direct experience of neurological conditions in her own family. She believes that the current fragmented approach is resulting in poorer outcomes for patients.
“We’ve seen great strides in research and treatment for neurological conditions in recent decades,” Nichols told PoliticsHome. “However, we’re failing to realise the full benefits of them. With progressive neurological conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, it's particularly important that people are diagnosed and treated in a timely way. Failing this means their disability progresses at a faster rate. This costs us all.”
The costs that Nichols highlights are financial as well as human. Experts have calculated that the economic cost of neurological conditions is at least £96bn. That is equivalent to more than 4.3 per cent of the UK’s GDP in 2019. According to researchers, that figure could be slashed by almost £30.8bn, simply by implementing existing interventions.
Neurological conditions cost the UK the equivalent of more than 4.3% of its GDP in 2019, or at least £96bn
That strategic approach depends on ensuring that the profession possesses the people, tools, and resources to respond to the rising tide of demand. The Association of British Neurologists (ABN) is supporting the calls for a national strategy to transform neurology. Richard Davenport, president of the ABN, told PoliticsHome that, without investment in the underlying clinical and professional infrastructure, people living in the UK will miss out on the opportunities presented by advances in treatments.
“In the past, therapies have been limited, but increasingly we have effective treatment options,” Davenport tells us. “To meet the needs of people with neurological conditions, we need to improve resources at all levels, including more neurologists, neuroradiologists, neurophysiologists, and allied neurology-specific healthcare professionals and therapists.”
For Charlotte Nichols MP, the impact of better coordination would ultimately benefit the millions of Britons who currently struggle to access the treatments they need to manage their conditions. “People are being left for too long to receive treatment because waiting times to see a specialist are too high, and best practice isn’t being shared,” Nichols tells us. “The UK government should establish a Neuro Taskforce bringing together government, industry, and the NHS in all UK nations to unlock these cost savings by sharing best practice initiatives.”
The launch of the new report later in February is set to provide a clear evidence base and roadmap to achieve that aim. But words alone are not enough to solve the problem. That is why the one in six Britons who currently live with a neurological condition, and their families, will be hoping that it leads to practical action by policymakers.
Calling all Parliamentarians! Please join Roche Products Ltd and related charities at their ‘Navigating the Economical Impact for Neurological Disorders in the UK’ reception on Monday 26th February from 14:15 - 15:30 in the House of Commons. This is your chance to find out more about the impact of neurological disorders in the UK and better understand the importance of investing in neurological care. To RSVP, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 2024 M-GB-00016055
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