30 November 2003
Scotland’s 44 neurologists have written to the Sunday Herald, stating that they are “embarrassed” by the quality of treatment given to their patients.
The doctors point out that Norway has almost six times as many specialists as Scotland has to treat patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other long-term neurological conditions .
Scotland has one neurologist for every 116,000 people compared to one neurologist for 20,000 in Norway. There are fewer neurologists here than in most other European nations, with just one specialist for every 230 patients with MS.
The letter, by Professor Charles Warlow, consultant neurologist at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, on behalf of every neurologist in Scotland, states: “We are embarrassed by how long it can take for a ‘non-urgent’ new patient to see a neurologist (more – and often much more – than six months at many hospital neurology clinics).
“And there is so much pressure on clinic time that we contribute far less than we should in the care of patients with long-term neurological problems such as MS.
“Unless and until the government is prepared to train and fund more neurologists and other professionals (such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and specialist nurses), MS patients, and others with neurological problems, will not get the specialist care they rightly expect and deserve, and which we are anxious to provide.”
The doctors wrote in response to the Sunday Herald campaign to establish a uniform national standard of care for people with MS.
Last week, the Department of Health in England published guidelines promising MS sufferers access to a specialist nurse when they are diagnosed, an appointment with a neurologist a month later to discuss their condition, access to rehabilitation services and follow-up appointments with the neurologist.
Some Scottish MS patients have not seen a neurologist for 10 years. They have to make do with appointments with a GP and rehabilitation services.
Scotland has the highest prevalence of MS in the world, yet the standards of care vary widely, with grossly inadequate or non-existent services in some areas, according to the MS Society Scotland. Despite years of lobbying for a national standard of care for sufferers, the MS Society says there has been no progress in Scotland.
Speaking at a society auction hosted by JK Rowling on Friday night, Mark Hazelwood, director of the MS Society Scotland, said: “The MS Society wants to make huge improvements for people affected by MS”.
A Scottish Executive spokesman said: “There are international shortages in neurologist and specialist nursing posts. We are working with health boards to recruit more neurologists. There has been some progress in this area: numbers of neurologists have increased over the past six years and there has been a significant increase in numbers of specialist nurses helping people with MS. But we do recognise there is more to do on both fronts.
“The Executive takes multiple sclerosis very seriously. We have made
pump-priming funding available to help the development of a managed care
network for people with MS in Forth Valley. It has a specialist nurse as
its lead clinician. This offers a model which we want to see developed
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