‘Desperately needed’ help call for disease

PUBLISHED: 11:02 04 June 2016 | UPDATED: 14:48 07 June 2016

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People living with Parkinson’s in Somerset could be left ‘without help they desperately need’ if planned reductions to NHS support go ahead, according to a leading charity.

There are currently around 1,500 people living with the disease across Somerset which, according to national guidelines, should mean there are at least five specialist nurses serving the county.

But Parkinson’s UK, a leading charity to support people with the disease, has found there are only three in post across the area, with one of these positions in severe danger of being lost.

That third post was set up in 2013 and funded by Parkinson’s UK at a cost of £80,000 for two years, following consultation with Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is responsible for providing most of the NHS’s healthcare in the area.

With the money set to run out this week, Parkinson’s UK has said the CCG should take over the funding, and had previously made assurances it would do so.

But the CCG has responded to say it only agreed to take on paying for the nurse if it could be shown hospital admissions had been reduced over the two years – something it says has not happened.

Neil Smart, Parkinson’s UK area manager for Somerset, said: “Reducing the number of Parkinson’s nurses in Somerset will strip away the already under-resourced support being offered to people, leaving them without the expert help they desperately need and increasing the chances of them ending up in hospital.”

Somerset CCG said it had undertaken an evaluation, which had shown high levels of patient satisfaction, but had not ‘clearly’ shown a reduction in hospital admissions or length of stay in hospital.

Managing director David Slack said: “The NHS in Somerset is currently under enormous demand and financial pressure to pay for more care. Somerset CCG is not in a position to bring new investment to services unless such service can be funded through releasing resource from elsewhere.

“The CCG cannot justify funding an additional specialist nurse post at this time and we have asked Parkinson’s UK to consider a six-month extension to allow further evaluation of the impact to be undertaken.”

The CCG and Parkinson’s UK will now meet over the coming weeks to attempt to find how funding might be secured to continue the role.

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