7.3.2018 Press Release 7 March 2018

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Neurology Services are at Breaking Point, Neurological Alliance of Ireland calls on government to act now  


· The 'Invest in Neurology' campaign is launched to mark National Brain Awareness Week


· Campaign wants government to address the alarming staff shortages in neurology care


· Access to neurology specialists and tests such as MRI have not improved in better economic climate  


Dublin, 7th March 2018: The Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI) and its member organisations today launched the 'Invest in Neurology' campaign to mark National Brain Awareness Week (5th-11th March). The campaign is calling on the government to tackle unacceptable staffing deficits and invest in neurology centres nationwide and improve access to critical tests such as a MRI. A recent report published by the NAI found that patients' experience of services in Ireland has not improved since an audit published in 2016. Over 800,000 Irish people are living with neurological conditions, such as migraine, epilepsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and rare and genetic neurological conditions.


Findings from a 2016 audit of Ireland's neurology services2 found that Irish hospitals are struggling with chronic underinvestment in neurology services and are totally underequipped to deal with the current and future demand. Decades of underinvestment resulted in the lowest ratio of consultant neurologists per head of population in the developed world. According to the Association of British Neurologists recommendations, each country should have one neurologist for every 70,000 people. The recommended ratio is exceeded in every hospital group in the country, with Mid-West Regional Hospital exceeding the recommended ratio with a figure of 1: 200,000 people. The findings also revealed Ireland had less than half the recommended number of neurologists, less than half the number of MS nurses and less than a third recommended number of specialist nurses for Parkinson's disease.


The first patient experience survey of over 200 users of outpatient neurology services carried out by the NAI in 2017i found that neurology services have not improved since the 2016 audit, with over one fifth of respondents waiting more than six months between the time they were referred by their GP to when they saw a neurologist for the first time, with one in ten respondents waiting more than 12 months.




National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures showed that in December 2017 over 19,000 people were waiting for a first appointment, over 6,000 were waiting more than 12 months and over 3,500 waiting more than 18 months.




Professor Tim Lynch, Clinical Lead for the National Neurology Programme and Clinical Director of the Dublin Neurological Institute said, "We have improved access to neurology via the Neurology Programme - about twice as many patients seen now compared to 6-7 years ago. However the waiting list is about the same - because more people are appropriately referred and we are unable to meet the demand. There is an urgent need to implement the Model of Care for Neurology that is with the HSE and DOHC and Government for the last two years".


Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Magdalen Rogers, Executive Director with the Neurological Alliance of Ireland said, "The consequences of the failure to invest in neurology services are stark with waiting times to see a neurologist up to two years in some parts of the country and longer waiting times to be seen in between appointments. Findings from the first patient experience survey of neurology services, which NAI carried out in 2017, show that this is causing significant distress and worry for patients living with some of the most serious conditions in our health system".


The Invest in Neurology campaign is calling on the Government for:


· Immediate investment to address critical deficits in neurology staffing, including neurologists, nurses and health and social care professionals to recommended levels


· Targeted long-term investment in neurology services to support implementation of the Neurology & Epilepsy Models of Care


· Dedicated resources to support the development of clinical pathways for headache, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and rare and genetic neurological conditions


The NAI is encouraging the public to lobby their local TDs for immediate investment in neurology services. To lobby your local TD please visit http://www.nai.ie/go/neurology_campaign/get_involved


Notes for Editors


Full details of the 'Invest in Neurology' campaign are available at http://www.nai.ie/go/neurology_campaign




Report on the 2015 audit of neurology services in Ireland is available at http://www.nai.ie/assets/22/E622B527-41E1-4471-9EFDAE484E1745B2_document/NAI_Report_on_National_Services_2015_C.pdf


About The Neurological Alliance of Ireland


The Neurological Alliance of Ireland is the national umbrella body for over thirty not for profit organisations working with people with neurological conditions. It aims to promote the development of services and supports for people with neurological conditions in Ireland through advocacy, policy development, awareness and research.


About National Brain Awareness Week


National Brain Awareness Week is an international initiative that takes place worldwide in March each year in order to raise awareness of neurological conditions.




National Brain Awareness Week takes place from March 5th to 11th 2018. Full details of events happening nationwide at http://www.nai.ie/go/brain_awareness_week/events




The following national organisations are signed up to the 'Invest In Neurology' campaign






Neurological Alliance of Ireland


Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland


Alzheimer Society of Ireland


Huntingtons Disease Association of Ireland


Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association


Epilepsy Ireland


Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland


Migraine Association of Ireland


Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Association


Enable Ireland


Muscular Dystrophy Ireland


Parkinsons Association of Ireland





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