The National Health Service (NHS) England announced an initiative that aims to speed diagnoses and ensure better all-around care for people with progressive neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, and motor neuron disease (MND).
Experts at NHS England, as part of the NHS RightCare programme, collaborated with seven charities — MS Society U.K., MS Trust, Parkinson’s UK, MND Association, Sue Ryder, MSA Trust, and PSP Association — to develop a toolkit that will help local health providers, called Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), in bringing better services to their patients.
Called the NHS RightCare Progressive Neurological Conditions Toolkit, its overall goal is threefold: to diagnose and treat patients more quickly, to improve access to specialist care (both physical and mental), and to improve collaboration between the various health professionals and organizations that are working separately to support a given patient.
Help will also be given to patients so they can better understand their disease, enabling them to more effectively manage their symptoms at home and to be more active participants in decision-making about their treatment plan.
The initiative includes fast-tracked blood tests, as well as consultations via Skype for those wanting them. Additionally, CCGs will be given data on local performance, as well as specifically tailored support to improve the care they offer.
Use of the NHS RightCare toolkit is expected to lower emergency room admissions by 2,500 each year for people with these diseases, and to free up about £10 million (about $12 million) that can then be used to support patient services, a press release from NHS England states.
“This is an opportunity for the NHS to work directly with patients and their families to deliver better care closer to home for the thousands of people with progressive neurological conditions,” Dawn Chamberlain, program director for Clinical Improvement at NHS England, said in the release.
“This toolkit provides the information local health leaders need to understand how to deliver high quality neurology services. Many areas are already providing high quality care in line with best practice, and by supporting others to come up to the same standard, we can deliver faster, more joined-up and better care for thousands more people – supporting them to stay well in their own homes,” Chamberlain added.
Claire Plackett, 54, of Croydon in England, was diagnosed with relapsing MS in 2015 — nearly 17 years after she first started experiencing symptoms. Plackett is now being treated at St George’s Hospital, considered by NHS England to be an example of a high-quality MS service, and her story was included in the release as a “case study” of how improving specialized services can benefit patients.
“I have blood tests once every three months to check my medicine is working, but in the past always had to join the general queue. It would take hours and hours, and was physically very draining,” Plackett said. “But now two days a week there’s an MS phlebotomist there taking blood just for MS patients. The service is incredibly important to me because it makes life so much easier.”
She added: “St George’s also has an MS coordinator, and she’s literally like magic. If you have any problems you can contact her, and she’s always on hand to put your mind at rest. Having MS comes with a lot of challenges but now I know there is always somebody who will be there for me. Getting the right support can make a huge difference to your life and I feel incredibly lucky.”
MS is estimated to affect more than 100,000 people in the U.K.