How Scotland is tackling a medical condition that affects nearly a million Scots – Dr Catherine Calderwood

Doddie Weir is presented with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award  (BBC)
Doddie Weir is presented with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award (BBC)
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From migraines to motor neurone disease and brain tumours, neurological conditions affect up to a million adults in Scotland, writes Dr Catherine Calderwood.

You could not have failed to become emotional during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in which Doddie Weir, who made 61 international appearances on the rugby pitch for Scotland, received the Helen Rollason Cup.

He stood tall, towering above royalty and celebrities, demonstrating the power of a highly acclaimed sportsman but also the cruelty of an advancing neurological disease for all to see. Diseases and disorders of the nervous system are common. Up to a million adults in Scotland live with a neurological condition and as many as one in ten of them are disabled as a result. Conditions range from the rare but life-shortening, such as brain tumours and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, to the common and disabling such as migraine.

READ MORE: Emotional Doddie Weir given standing ovation at BBC Sports Personality of the Year

READ MORE: Doddie Weir: ‘I nearly died after eating a piece of toast’

The degenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia and motor neurone disease, lead to relentlessly progressive disability placing unimaginable strains on families and relationships. Multiple sclerosis is more prevalent in Scotland than almost all other countries and is one of the most common causes of disability in young adults, although new disease modifying drugs threaten to dull that miserable statistic. In my own specialty of obstetrics, neurological disease is an important cause of mothers dying in pregnancy.

A deceptively simple vision

These conditions matter and Scotland has a proud history in leading the way in the development of new therapies and treatments for neurological disorders. Now, for the first time, the Scottish Government has commissioned a plan for the future for all those affected.

Last month this five-year plan was formally launched and is the product of a huge amount of work involving numerous different groups and wide consultation with the public and relevant bodies. The overall vision of the plan is deceptively simple: that everyone with a neurological condition will be able to access the care and support they need to live well, on their own terms, regardless of their particular condition or where in Scotland they live.

The Scottish Government has set out 17 specific commitments to drive what I believe is the most important step forward for all those with a neurological condition living in Scotland ever attempted. I recognise this is a huge task, given the broad range of conditions and diverse ways in which they impact upon people, their families and daily lives.

For this reason, the project team consulted widely and undertook innovative work to inform the development of the plan and listened to patients, carers and families and charities. I believe it takes into account all these many different views.

Our challenge now is to implement these commitments and work has already begun. Over the next five years, £4.5 million of Scottish Government funding will be used to improve standards including investment in personalised models of care, innovative service development, building a sustainable neurological workforce for the future, and a greater use of technology to enhance diagnosis, care and treatment options. I commend this action plan and am grateful to all involved.

The next five years are a crucial and exciting time and I hope that the plan, Neurological Care and Support in Scotland: A Framework for Action 2020-2025, will illuminate the path to better healthcare and services for people with neurological conditions.

Dr Catherine Calderwood is Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer and she is grateful to Dr Richard Davenport, Consultant Neurologist, for his contribution.