Description of specialty

Neurology is the branch of medicine dealing with disorders of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves and muscles. Specialist care for adult services is provided by consultant neurologists working within a network of health professionals (see below for list of health professionals who work with neurologists).

People with a neurological illness should easily be able to access a neurology network that includes services at a district general hospital, neurology centre or a regional neurosciences centre. Neurologists provide a clinical lead for teams within the network, coordinating the patient’s clinical pathway and working in partnership with patients.

Who are the patients?

Prevalence is explored in a study of neurological disorders from 2000. Sixteen common diseases (including stroke, epilepsy, and migraine) account for 75% of all new outpatient referrals. The investigation and management of these diseases have become more complex in the light of new medical and surgical treatments. The remaining 25% of patients have unusual disorders or complex symptomatology that requires expert assessment, sophisticated investigation and management (eg mitochondrial disorders). All patients need prompt and careful assessment with an appropriate and safe management plan. Many neurological disorders are chronic long-term conditions requiring long-term support and management by neurological services, consultants and specialist nurses. The most common are epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, although there are also a large number of rare diseases.

More recent data from 2014 showed there were 1.46 million emergency admissions with a mention of neurology in 2013–14. NHS expenditure on neurological conditions amounted to £4.4 billion in 2012/2013. A community-based study showed that 6% of the population had at some point in their lives suffered from a neurological disorder.  

Further resources are available from the Neurological Alliance, including data and statistics. The Health and Social Care Information Centre has compiled a compendium of neurology data (opens PDF, 800KB) and Epilepsy Action and the Epilepsy Society have produced a toolkit to support effective commissioning for children and adults.

Consultant job planning

Job planning arrangements of consultant neurologists vary depending on where they work. In 2014, the Association of British Neurologists published a job planning guide (opens PDF, 300KB).