A Department of Health plan to improve services for people with neurological conditions is not being implemented adequately because it has been overtaken by other policies and NHS cuts.
Campaigners have said the long-term (neurological) conditions national service framework is low down NHS and social care managers’ priorities and has been overshadowed by the health and social care white paper, with its long-term conditions focus.
It was launched in March 2005, with 11 “quality requirements” for services for people with conditions such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, including improved access to specialist care and rehabilitation.
Maggie Alexander, chief executive of the Brain and Spine Foundation, said: “I can’t hand on heart say that the NSF has made any difference.”
She said primary care trusts and strategic health authorities, which manage PCTs’ performance, had been preoccupied with reorganisation, whereas NHS deficits had triggered cuts in specialist nursing posts.
A survey of SHAs this year by charity coalition the Neurological Alliance found implementation by PCTs was “patchy” and that the NSF was not being treated as a policy in its own right, but an add-on to others.
David Pink, chief executive of the Long Term Medical Conditions Alliance, said it had been overtaken by the white paper, despite their differences: “The white paper is aspirational. The NSF is a detailed guidance document.”
Jeff Jerome, co-chair of the Association of Directors of Social Services disabilities committee, said SHAs “had not taken it seriously”, though admitted social services needed to give it higher priority.
Adrian Pollitt, chief executive of the Office of the Strategic Health Authorities, which represents SHAs, said he would not be surprised if implementation was patchy, but added: “I’m not aware of anyone jumping up and down about [it not being implemented].”