Healthcare Commission to tackle slow progress on neurological NSF

The Healthcare Commission is to scrutinise NHS performance in implementing a key policy to improve the care of people with neurological conditions.

The move comes amid evidence of slow progress. The regulator said some areas had been slow to implement the National Service Framework for Long-term (Neurological) Conditions and there was a need to speed up the delivery of the 10-year strategy, published in 2005. It covers conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

A spokesperson said: “We are in discussions with the Department of Health and other stakeholders as to how our assessment system can incorporate incentives for trusts to implement the framework over the next few years.”

The strategy, which set 11 quality standards, covering improved joint working between health and social care, greater support for carers, prompt diagnosis and better access to rehabilitation services, was warmly welcomed by charities as heralding an end to the conditions’ “Cinderella” status.

But Ken Walker, chief executive of the Brain and Spine Foundation, said a lack of resources and targets on implementation for primary care trusts was continuing to hamper progress.

The Department of Health recently decided to disband a central support team for the NSF of five civil servants as part of a trend of devolving more responsibility for policy implementation to localities.

But Lucy Brazg, policy and development manager at charity coalition the Neurological Alliance, said the development was “frightening” because the central team had provided a regular point of contact about the NSF for stakeholders.

John Holt, secretary of the West Berkshire Neurological Alliance and a carer for his wife, who has MS, blamed last year’s reorganisation of PCTs and strategic health authorities, which he said meant trusts had focused on national priority areas such as heart disease.

“There’s been 18 months lost in terms of opportunity for change,” he added.

A DH spokeperson said it was trying to help embed the NSF in “front-line service plans” rather than “[imposing it] on the service from the centre as a stand-alone project”.

Related articles:
Neurology blueprint drops down agenda 
Essential information on health

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Mithran Samuel


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