28th February 2018

Report on Deaths Associated with Neurological Conditions

Deaths from neurological conditions increased by 39% from 2001 to 2014, according to a report released yesterday by Public Health England.

The report suggests that the impact of the ageing population, people not dying from other conditions, and improvement in detection and diagnosis of neurological conditions, have contributed to the increase. But even taking the growing and ageing population into account, the overall mortality rate of deaths associated with a neurological condition has increased by 13%. This compares to a falling overall death rate, down 18% over the same period.

Shockingly, epilepsy associated deaths in the most deprived areas are nearly three-times more likely than in the least deprived areas – a stark illustration of health inequalities.

The report discusses a number of factors contributing to the increasing deaths, but overlooks a critical potential cause: the poor care many people with neurological conditions experience as reported by the National Audit Office (NAO) in 2015 and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2012 and 2016.

Joe Korner, Chief Executive of the Neurological Alliance said “The evidence from the NAO and PAC clearly showed that ‘Neurology has never been a priority for the NHS’. We can see the impact of this lack of focus in:
• Poor patient experience and outcomes.
• Highly variable service availability.
• Disengagement of local commissioners.
• Fragmented pathways of care.
• Lack of incentives or strategic objectives within NHS accountability and incentive systems.
We hope that this important report from PHE will be a trigger for improvements in neurological care.”

Jane Hanna, whose partner died suddenly from epilepsy aged 27 and who is Chief Executive for SUDEP Action said `Let’s not forget these statistics are about real people. They should not be forgotten and we urge the neurological community and the Government to take action to tackle future premature and potentially avoidable deaths.`

References:

• Public Accounts Committee report: Services to people with neurological conditions: progress review (2016)
• National Audit Office: Services for people with neurological conditions: progress review (2015)
• Public Accounts Committee report: Services for people with neurological conditions (2012)
• Deaths associated with neurological conditions in England 2001 to 2014. Data analysis report. PHE (2018).

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