The consultation on the first National Action Plan to support the thousands of people across Scotland with a neurological condition is a welcome and ambitious step forward.
Charities across Scotland have been leading the charge to ensure that those with neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s and motor neurone disease have access to high quality and appropriate care.
It was Sue Ryder’s Rewrite the Future report which set out the scale of the problem and led to the Scottish Government announcement a year ago that an action plan would be developed.
Those with neurological conditions across Scotland deserve better and this new plan is a hugely significant first stepPamela Mackenzie
What is clear from this new consultation is that while there are challenges, the rewards for getting things right are immense.
Yet it is difficult to address a problem when we don’t accurately know the full extent of it, so we’re pleased the Scottish Government has acknowledged this and has committed to improving our understanding of the population who have a neurological condition, where people live, what services they use and what support would make a difference.
The diagnosis of a neurological condition is often life changing for the individual and their family. And in some cases this is compounded by not knowing where to turn for support and care. Interventions like self-management, specialist physiotherapy, rehabilitation or neuropsychology can help someone cope with their condition and support them to live life as fully as possible. The action plan aims to work with Health and Social Care Partnerships to provide these vital services – this would be a hugely positive step.
The action plan also proposes the development of a neurology link worker role, to help people with neurological conditions access the care and support they need. This is something Sue Ryder has been calling for since our report revealed Scotland’s patchy provision of care.
All organisations – whether statutory or third sector – are faced with the same challenges of workforce recruitment and retention, so we need more collaboration to identify smarter ways of developing the skills and expertise of our workforce to meet the needs of people with neurological conditions. Perhaps there are ways to utilise the skills and expertise of organisations such as ours who provide specialist neurological services to support the statutory sector to deliver the action plan?
What is clear is that there is lots of work ahead, especially in how the Scottish Government supports Health and Social Care Partnerships to embrace and embed models of care that enable people with neurological conditions to live their lives more fully. The first step will be changing mind-sets on how care is delivered by switching to a more proactive model which, as recent Sue Ryder research shows, will save money and deliver better care.
As with any national action plan, implementation is the challenge and the introduction of a national champion to lead and develop a network of local leads is both welcome and vital.
It’s clear that those with neurological conditions across Scotland deserve better and this new plan is a hugely significant first step in delivering a solution that works for all.
Pamela Mackenzie is Director of Neurological Services and Scotland, Sue Ryder