We have written recently of the lack of specialist treatment centres in the UK for Functional Neurological Disorders (FNDs). This is perhaps reflective of a more general lack of knowledge of FNDs among health professionals. Many people with FNDs go undiagnosed and therefore do not receive appropriate treatment and this is in large part due to a lack of awareness in the medical profession.
Not that it is in any way comforting to know we are not alone, but a very recent study in Australia, published in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, highlights a similar problem there. The results were particularly worrying as the study targeted only those health professionals who regularly come into contact with people suffering a FND.
The objectives of the study were “to identify the knowledge and support needs for a wide range of health professions who come in contact with patients with Functional Neurological Disorders”. It took the form of an anonymous online survey which was sent to professionals in the fields of neurology, psychiatry, psychology, general practice, nursing and physiotherapy.
In total, 538 professionals responded to the survey. Most did not feel well educated about FND “with only 14% of General practitioners (GPs) reporting ‘good’ knowledge.”
In terms of their general attitude towards patients suffering a FND, “Neurologists, GPs and nurses reported lower clinical interest and greater negative attitude towards FND than psychiatrists, psychologists and physiotherapists” and many did not feel comfortable discussing the possibility of a FND with a patient.
It is perhaps not surprising that the results suggest that the more patients with FND a professional sees, the greater they felt their knowledge and confidence in diagnosing the condition.
A desire to learn more
What was apparent (and encouraging) to the researchers was that there is a significant interest among responders to learn more about FND and the study concluded with a recommendation that “improved teaching and education of health professionals about FND and its management could potentially have a significant impact towards better patient care.”
Solicitor Bruce Dyer said “this research is very interesting but perhaps simply confirms what we knew already; that there is a widespread lack of awareness of FND within the medical profession. In my experience many of the people contacting us wishing to pursue compensation claims for Functional Neurological Disorders have well-established FND. This is invariably because they have been passed from pillar to post before they receive a diagnosis. By then, their outlook is often less promising.”