The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has introduced a new guideline to offer comprehensive information on neurological conditions to help non-specialist healthcare professionals to identify people who should be referred for specialist assessment and care.

The guideline covers symptoms and signs that should prompt a referral for further neurological assessment. It also covers some examinations, assessment tools and investigative tests for helping to decide whether a person with a suspected neurological condition should have further investigation or be referred to a specialist.

A recent survey by the Neurological Alliance found that nearly a third of respondents had to see their GP five or more times about the health problems caused by their condition before being referred to a neurological specialist. It also found that around 40% of respondents waited more than a year from when they first noticed their symptoms to seeing a specialist.

Dr Paul Chrisp, director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, said: “People with suspected neurological conditions often need referral to a specialist to be diagnosed. However, we know that some people with neurological conditions are initially misdiagnosed or have a delayed referral to a specialist, and some referrals are unnecessary. These issues with referral can come from non-specialists not recognising neurological conditions.

“This new guideline should help improve outcomes for people with suspected neurological conditions by providing, for the first time, a comprehensive assessment of the key signs and symptoms across the range of possible neurological conditions that should trigger referral to a specialist.”

Neurological conditions are illnesses or injuries that affect the brain, spinal cord, muscles or nerves. Suspected neurological conditions account for about 1 in 10 GP consultations and around 10% of emergency admissions - excluding stroke - and result in disability for 1 in 50 of the UK population.