New report highlights poor mental health services for people with neurological conditions

16 May 2024

Lack of access to mental health services for people affected by neurological conditions is profoundly impacting the wellbeing of people across Scotland. 

The Neurological Alliance of Scotland have released a report on 13 May to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week. It shows how underfunded neurological charities are struggling to cope with the volume and intensity of demand for mental health support amongst those affected by neurological conditions who cannot get support from the NHS. 

The MS Trust contributed to this report and shares the concerns raised. Many of the issues discussed in the context of the situation in Scotland are experienced across the UK. Our own report, Life changing: Mental Health in MS was published last year.

The report highlights significant increases in calls to helplines since 2017. Charities are increasingly having to deal with safeguarding issues as carers reach burnout, increasingly complex calls to helplines, including suicidal ideation and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, the report points out that the NHS routinely refers people to neurological charities for social and emotional support yet does not provide this sector with funding to deal with these referrals. The report noted that a steady year on year increase in the prevalence of neurological conditions, coupled with extended NHS waiting times and difficulty accessing services has led to overwhelming demand on neurological charities.

The report goes on to highlight the huge cost benefits of early intervention to support mental health at the earliest stages of diagnosis of a neurological condition. This is particularly true for children and young people who are being routinely failed by long waiting times to access child mental health services, as well as for those affected by complex, degenerative, or fluctuating conditions like MS.
Keith Park, Chair of the Neurological Alliance of Scotland Mental Health Subgroup and co-author of the report said: 

“The publication of the Scottish Government’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy in 2023 has not made any difference in the availability of support for those affected by neurological conditions. Neurological charities are providing services which should be funded by the NHS and the Scottish Government, and things cannot continue as they are.

“We are calling for a more coordinated approach, putting the person at the centre of their own care. We want to see neurologists asking questions about emotional wellbeing and for the mental health workforce to better understand the challenges of living with a condition which can impact so many areas of life. 

“More than anything, we want to see equitable access of care, whether it is neurological or mental health, available to everyone irrespective of postcode, across Scotland. And we want to see statutory bodies properly fund third sector organisations that already deliver this support on the ground.”

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