'News about Neuro' was a winner at the Racecourse Conference Centre.
This unique event was a one-day conference entitled 'News about Neuro -Experts Together' - a platform for a team of leading national and local speakers in the field of neurology, to share their knowledge with everybody involved in improving the quality of life for people living with a neurological condition such as Stroke, Epilepsy, Parkinson's Disease, MS, Alzheimer's, Motor Neurone Disease and many others
It was organised by the local voluntary group, West Berkshire Neurological Alliance, in conjunction with Dr Christine Collin, Consultant in Neuro-rehabilitation at the Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals. Its undoubted success was due to eighteen months of the hard work of many, and the generous sponsorship of Awards for All, Charles Lucas and Marshall (Solicitors), Berkshire Branch of the British Polio Fellowship and Publicity Projects (Newbury) Ltd.
On the day one hundred and fifty delegates waited in eager anticipation for the keynote speaker Baroness Susan Greenfield. They were not disappointed. Thirty minutes later and the audience had become aware of the nature of brain plasticity. They learned that throughout life the brain is capable of adaptation by forming new connections between nerve cells. However, the environment provides the stimulus to make change and form this elaborate network. Brain plasticity provides hope for many neurological patients but it also issues a challenge to all therapists, carers and care providers to make such a stimulating environment available to all.
Early treatment for neurological conditions
Many of the speakers emphasised that most neurological conditions can be improved significantly if there is early diagnosis. The use of the relatively new diagnostic tool of magnetic resonance imaging was illustrated.
But appropriate treatment must shortly follow diagnosis. In many cases this can help reduce the rate of progression of the disease and in most cases it improves quality of life. It is vitally important in the case of stroke and Parkinson's disease but also necessary for patients with MS and motor neurone disease. The good management of rehabilitation and drug regime is also important for those patients suffering the 'elusive concept,' post-polio syndrome and other less well known conditions, too many to name.
However, delegates were informed, at present the UK has 1 neurologist per 177,000 in the population. Unless present neurological provision improves, it is difficult to see how essential requirements can be met. A minimum aim would be for service provision to approach the European average of 1 per 30,000 representing a considerable challenge for central Government.
Access to appropriate therapies
Much can now be done for patients with speech, language and swallowing defects. Delegates were able to see filmed examples of patients suffering from a variety of these conditions. Filmed examples of the benefits to be gained from regular, long-term physiotherapy also were shown. Consultants and Therapists all stressed that the patient's opinion must be listened to.
Patients should be referred more often to therapists with their ever increasing expertise. It is a tragedy that few patients get the benefit of a continuing regime. There is a considerable lack of trained speech therapists and neuro-physiotherapists.
Hope for epileptics
Epilepsy affects 300,000 in the UK, but many suffer in silence, keeping their secret from their friends. The message from the conference was that patients should be more demanding. In some cases a full cure may be possible. This message is particularly relevant in the Newbury district because a new appointment in this important field has just been made for this area.
The conference concluded with a question and answer session between the speakers and the audience, which was very popular, and would have lasted much longer if time had permitted.
Delegates could visit exhibitors' stalls where there was information about the latest drugs, about physical aids to improve quality of life, and where books, which could expand upon issues raised at the conference, were on sale. There was also a stand displaying leaflets of the voluntary Associations belonging to the West Berkshire Neurological Alliance.
As one of the aims of the conference was to raise money towards funding a post for a Neurological Nurse for this area, there was a stand showing neurology training courses run at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing at London University.
As delegates streamed away from the Racecourse, the organisers were rewarded by the views of many, summarised in the words of one delegate, "Excellent - just excellent". Time alone will tell whether the many challenges raised by the conference will be met. Over £5,000 was raised by the event.
West Berkshire Neurological Alliance can be contacted on 01635 33582.
Key speakers were:
Baroness Susan Greenfield, Professor Alan Thompson, Penny Lilley, Dr Andrew Coull, Professor Karen Bryan, Professor Paul Matthews, Dr Christine Collin, Dr Jane Adcock and Dr Ralph Gregory.