Mar 14, 2002
LONDON (Reuters Health) - British neurologists said on Thursday that patients who have strokes, meningitis or other emergency brain-related disorders are not guaranteed adequate care because of a shortage of specialist physicians.
A report published by the Association of British Neurologists said that most patients admitted to hospital as an emergency with brain-related disorders are never seen by a neurologist.
"It is a matter of luck and where you live," the report said. Patients in the Thames regions, Anglia and Oxford benefit from a greater proportion of neurologists than elsewhere in Britain, the report shows.
The association urged the Government and health authorities to increase the number of neurologists from 350 to 1400 over the next 10 years in order to establish a UK-wide and fully comprehensive service.
"Currently, there is just one neurologist for every 177,000 people in the population, which is dramatically worse than all other European countries where these data are available. France, for example, has one neurologist per 38,500 people," the report said.
Professor Charles Warlow, from Western General Hospital in Edinburgh and president of the association, told Reuters Health that the shortage of neurologists meant that patients "must be at greater risk" than those overseas.
Without neurologists to help, general physicians were being put in an impossible situation as they tried to treat unconscious patients. "With the best will in the world, they can't do as well as we can," Professor Warlow said.
He added in a statement, "We believe that all hospitals should have a neurological service around the clock to give prompt and accurate diagnosis and treatment to all patients who are admitted with acute neurological illnesses. We need at least 600 neurologists just to cope with outpatients alone between the hours of nine to five."
British TV broadcaster, Julia Somerville, who had emergency surgery to remove a brain tumour following a swift diagnosis by a neurologist in 1992, backed the call.
"I was very fortunate that the facilities I needed were there for me but I am aware that it was a matter of luck," she said in a statement.
"The association has highlighted the appalling scarcity of expertise
nationwide for patients in a similar situation."
© 2002 Reuters Ltd