There is one brain consultant for 200,000 people
Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 14:12 GMT
A group of neurological specialists in Scotland is highlighting the
length of time taken for patients with serious problems to be seen in hospital.
People with life-threatening conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease are waiting anything up to a year to see a consultant.
The nine doctors from the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh want action to reduce waiting times.
They said: "There are thousands of other patients with neurological problems who may have to wait many months to be seen by specialist neurologists - those with Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, migraine, stroke, unexplained headaches, weakness, pins and needles, blackouts, dizziness and so on.
"At present in Scotland there is only one consultant neurologist for about 200,000 people.
"We in Edinburgh struggle to meet the needs of patients from Stranraer to Kirkcaldy and from Coldstream to Falkirk."
"With only nine consultant neurologists the task is impossible particularly as our specialist experience must be complemented by other equally stretched services such as brain scanning, physiotherapy and medical records."
Their comments were made in a letter to The Scotsman newspaper.
Complaints and litigation
They said that a combination of lack of resources, increasing patient expectations, new treatments, hard-pressed general practitioners and an ever-increasing burden of patient complaints and litigation meant the wait to see consultants as an outpatient could be nearly a year.
"This situation will not change and could even worsen until those with neurological problems are given the same priority as those with heart disease and cancer," the letter continued.
The consultants include departmental head Professor Peter Sandercock; Professor Charles Warlow, professor of medical neurology and Dr Richard Knight, a consultant neurologist who conducts research in the field of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, the human form of BSE.
Their letter was written in response to a report published last week which criticised services for people with multiple sclerosis.
In it, Professor Ian Bone said then that patients referred to him now would not be diagnosed until 2002 because of waiting times for appointments and scans.
The doctors said they wrote to the newspaper to demonstrate that the problem was much broader.
'Fill the gaps'
Stroke specialist Professor Warlow said doctors did not want to see funding for heart disease and cancer cut but described the differences in services as "very frustrating".
He added: "Neurological services in general don't seem to be a priority and we really need to fill the gaps in the service."
The Scottish Executive said that while cancer and heart disease were its top priorities, it recognised the seriousness of other conditions - including brain problems.
It added that it was investing more money thatn ever before in the NHS.