The New Tool Helping Medical Detectives Track Down Suspected Brain Injury…

Posted in Fresh Thinking

The New Tool Helping Medical Detectives Track Down Suspected Brain Injury…

We can’t all be brain injury experts, but there’s a new guide out now that can help non-specialist healthcare professionals spot the tell-tale signs and symptoms of brain injury.

And it could not have come soon enough as worrying figures show thousands of patients are missing out on prompt treatment.

The guide from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) aims to ensure:


  • GPs recognise when symptoms could have a neurological cause
  • GPs and doctors in emergency departments know when to refer people to a specialist straight away, and when to do more tests first
  • people who most need to see a specialist do so sooner, and
  • people are not referred to a specialist if they don’t need to be.


The ‘Suspected Neurological Conditions: Recognition and Referral’ guide is the first of its type to offer such comprehensive information on neurological conditions for non-specialists.

As well as flagging up specific symptoms and signs, it also details examinations, assessment tools and investigative tests that could be used to help decide whether further investigation is needed.


“A non-specialist cannot be expected to keep up with the rapid changes in knowledge and practice in clinical neurology. This new guideline will help.”

Richard Grunewald, Chair, NICE guideline committee.


The guide covers all neurological conditions including those affecting the brain, spinal cord, muscles and nerves.

And the hope now is for a big improvement on early diagnosis rates, after a survey of almost 7,000 patients by the Neurological Alliance [1] found:


  • nearly a third had to see their GP five or more times before being referred to a neurological specialist, and
  • around 40% of respondents waited more than a year from when they first noticed their symptoms to seeing a specialist.


Dr Paul Crisp, director of the NICE Centre for Guidelines, hoped the new guide would help to avoid misdiagnosis and delayed or unnecessary referrals.


“These issues with referral can come from non-specialists not recognising neurological conditions. This new guideline should help improve outcomes for people.”


Neurological conditions result in: 


  • about 1 in 10 GP consultations
  • disability for 1 in 50 of the UK population [2]
  • in around 10% of emergency admissions (excluding stroke)



[1] The Neurology Alliance, “The Invisible Patients: revealing the state of neurology services,” 2015.

[2] Royal College of Physicians, “Local adult neurology services for the next decade: report of a working party,” 2011.


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