Scotland’s neurological action plan: maintaining momentum

At the end of last year, the Scottish Government produced the country’s first national action plan on neurological conditions. But, now it’s been created, next comes the most crucial step: its delivery. Sue Ryder's Policy and Public Affairs Manager for Scotland Elinor Jayne, who helped shape the plan, reports.

We took the opportunity to discuss Scotland's national action plan on neurological conditions during Joe FitzPatrick MSP's visit to our Dee View Court neurological care centre.

There’s been an awful lot going on in the world of politics and, with everyone’s eyes on Brexit, not much else has been getting a look-in. However, the wheels of government are still turning and, as 2018 drew to a close, the Scottish Government produced its first ever national action plan on neurological conditions.

While this was never going to make the front page in the current climate, it represents a big step forward for everyone affected by neurological conditions in Scotland.

Originally promised by the First Minister in response to our Rewrite the Future report – which revealed only five of Scotland’s 14 health boards had any kind of plan for neurological services – the Scottish Government took a collaborative approach and worked with charities like us, people living with neurological conditions, their carers and clinicians to develop the new national action plan.

Ensuring the plan is holistic and person centred

We’ve been working closely with everyone involved to ensure that the new national action plan reflected all the needs of people with neurological conditions, and included all the different types of service and support that people with neurological conditions – and their carers – may need. 

With a vision that states “Everyone with a neurological condition will be able to access the care and support they need to live well, on their own terms”, it’s clear that the Scottish Government has listened.

As a result, the plan is holistic and represents a shift away from a hospital-based approach and towards a person-centred one. 

Everyone should get to decide what kind of neurological support they want

For instance, the very first commitment the plan makes is to support “shared decision-making and personalised models of care and support for people with neurological conditions and their carers, including self-management support where appropriate”.

Roughly translated, this means everyone should get to decide what kind of care and support they want and relatively low-level support such as self-management – where people are supported to look after their own health – should become the norm, rather than people having to wait until things get really bad before they can access the care they need.

Implementation is key

However, as with all these things, the challenge will be in the implementation. Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick visited our Sue Ryder Dee View Court neurological care centre at the start of the year to see what specialist neurological care looks like for himself. We used the opportunity to make the case for government to lead the delivery of the plan, and put in place governance and accountability, as well as the necessary resources; without these, implementation will quickly become very difficult. 

We’ve seen the best of intentions fall by the wayside before – take the neurological clinical standards in Scotland, for example – which only goes to demonstrate how important leadership is.

(Side note: As a result of our first Rewrite the Future report, we’ve been working with Healthcare Improvement Scotland and a wide range of other stakeholders to revise the neurological standards, and a new set for both health and social care should be launched in the next couple of months. Watch this space.)

Keeping our eyes on the prize: better neurological care for more people

As the consultation on the action plan draws to a close on Friday, it’s important we don’t lose sight of the goal: everyone with a neurological condition should be able to live their lives as fully as possible.

This is going to take real commitment and drive – nationally, regionally, locally, and across the entire health and social care sector.

Our influencing work

Sue Ryder’s influencing team lobbies to improve neurological support in Scotland.


Elinor Jayne

Policy and Public Affairs Manager (Scotland)

Elinor Jayne