DCN Today

What are neuroscience services?

The term 'neuroscience' refers to a group of specialist disciplines. The two main specialties are neurology (medical) and neurosurgery (surgical). Along with a range of other specialists, neurologists and neurosurgeons treat people with disorders of the nervous system. These include problems affecting the brain and spinal cord and the nerves and muscles in the rest of the body, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or brain injuries.

Disorders of the nervous system are quite common. Not all are serious and many can be dealt with locally by your GP and in the community. Some people will need to be referred to a secondary care facility, like a local hospital. Some people, who need more specialist care, will have to go to a neuroscience centre.

The neuroscience centre in Edinburgh is not only for the people of Lothian, it is where patients from the Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, Forth Valley and Fife are transferred for specialist care. It covers a population of 1.6 million across these areas, while for some specialist services it covers the 2.8 million people living on the east side of Scotland.

Where are neuroscience services at present?

NHS Lothian’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience is currently located at the Western General Hospital in northwest Edinburgh. The department has three wards, operating theatres, diagnostic services (e.g. scans) and an outpatients department. An outpatient service is also provided at St John’s Hospital in Livingston, The Conan Doyle GP Practice, Edinburgh, Roodlands Hospital, and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. The service for children is provided in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.

Why do we need to change?

The Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Western General Hospital building was purpose-built in the 1960s, but it is no longer flexible enough to accommodate everything we would want to do. It is too small for the number of patients they see and treat and cannot be adapted to accommodate the specialist procedures and technologies in use today. NHS Lothian looks forward to providing accommodation that will support these specialties in staying at the forefront of neuroscience patient care.

The Department only sees adult patients, but some of its highly specialist staff work in the children’s service as well, currently on a different hospital site. However, a new Royal Hospital for Sick Children, beside the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at Little France, is being planned for 2015.

NHS Lothian would like to take this opportunity to improve how quickly and safely we are able to treat patients by delivering adult and children’s neuroscience services on the same site.

Joint working between the Department and the University of Edinburgh to provide clinical care, state-of-the-art equipment, teaching and research, benefits both patients and staff and contributes to the Department’s status as a leader in its field. The University plans to expand its research interests with the building of an Institute of Neurosciences at Little France. Being nearby would ensure continuing benefits to patients.

Many of the reasons for change suggest that clinical neurosciences should be located alongside the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh’s A&E Department, and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. The process to review all options for the site of the Department of Clinical Neuroscience in future has been carried out in partnership with all groups who have an interest, including patient and public representatives. However, to address the challenges above NHS Lothian are recommending that the future home of clinical neurosciences be at Little France, with an outpatients’ service continuing at the Western General Hospital and continuing at other sites.

Last Reviewed: 01/06/2011