Recommendations from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice) for the care of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are "not being implemented" by the NHS, according to a major new report.
A national audit of NHS provision for MS sufferers, commissioned by the Royal College of Physicians and the MS Trust, has found that guidelines published in November 2003 are only achieving low levels of compliance.
The report claims that current service provision "is of low quality and inadequate quantity", with patients in some parts of the country finding themselves on a three to four year waiting list for necessary home services, such as a shower facility, resulting in severe lifestyle disruption and the potential for injuries in the meantime.
"Most of the seven recommendations made in the Nice Guidelines are not complied with at present, there are few plans to change this, and the standard of data available within organisations would not allow them to monitor compliance or undertake change," the report states.
The audit, which looked at strategic health authorities, primary care trusts, NHS trusts and people with MS, suggests that MS care has "commanded low priority in the NHS", according to Professor Dame Carol Black, president of the Royal College of Physicians.
"It reminds us that merely setting service standards, without adequate arrangements for quality assurance, falls short of what patients are right to expect," she commented.
"Their needs will not be met without a stronger determined drive for service improvement, with means of measuring service performance, and identifiable accountability."
Christine Jones, chief executive of the MS Trust, said that the lack of progress within the NHS was "hugely frustrating".
She commented: "There are some pockets of excellent practice but services for people with MS are, in the main, in a very sorry state and we can ill-afford to waste two years in putting the situation right."