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15-2-2011 | Launch of NAI Survey on Experiences of Neurological Care Services

15 February 2011
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From NAI press release 15-2-2011

First nationwide survey on state of neurological care reveals:

  • 38 per cent waited longer than 6 months to be diagnosed
  • 42 per cent experienced more than 6 month delay in receiving vital services
  • 58 per cent identified shorter waiting times to see a consultant as the change that would have greatest impact
  • 81 per cent view voluntary organisations as essential or very important in providing services and support

"The first nationwide survey on neurological care carried out by the Neurological Alliance Ireland (NAI) is an indictment of the Irish health system and evidence of a mounting crisis in neurological care," said Professor Orla Hardiman, Consultant Neurologist in Beaumont Hospital and spokesperson for THINKING AHEAD, the NAI Campaign for Neurological Care. NAI represents 30 neurological charities and 700,000 people across the country.

The survey findings reveal that more than 38 per cent of people with neurological conditions waited longer than 6 months to be diagnosed at a deeply worrying time for them and their families. 42 per cent experienced more than a 6 month delay in receiving vital services with the majority waiting for consultant neurology services. Neurological conditions include stroke, epilepsy, migraine, Alzheimer's disease, acquired brain injury and multiple sclerosis.

The NAI's THINKING AHEAD campaign is focused on making neurological care a priority for the current election. Members of the public can support the campaign by visiting www.thinkingahead.ie. NAI Thinking Ahead will launch their Action Plan for Neurological Care during upcoming Brain Awareness Week March 7-13th 2011. The Action Plan will clearly outline how the new government must tackle the neurological health crisis.

Professor Orla Hardiman described the findings as a final warning on tackling the neurological care crisis: "The nationwide survey records people's actual experience of our grossly inadequate neurological care system. The growing incidence of neurological conditions affecting almost one fifth of the population, points to a crisis that will effectively be the cancer of the future."

She continued: "A number of respondents reported that they could not access certain services at all. Almost a third could not access neuropsychology services while more than one fifth couldn't get specialist nurse or social work services".

The report clearly showed significant demands on neurological services that are available with 45 per cent of respondents identifying that they needed more access to physiotherapy and 43 per cent to consultant neurology services, vital to a person with a neurological condition.

When asked about changes to the health service, 58 per cent of respondents identified shorter waiting times to see a consultant as the change that would make the greatest difference to them

Professor Hardiman repeated the call on behalf of Thinking Ahead: "The next government must make neurological care their top priority for health. How they deal with the neurological care crisis will be the acid test for all the political parties' health strategies. The current HSE clinical programmes on stroke, epilepsy, neurology and rehabilitation have real potential to achieve change. The incoming government has to support and invest long term in these programmes".

Voluntary organisations best source of information and support

Significantly, 49 per cent of respondents reported that voluntary organisations were their best source of information and support in relation to their condition. 48 per cent viewed voluntary organisations as essential and a further 33% as important or very important in terms of the services and support they provide.

Commenting on the survey results, Anne Winslow, Chair of the NAI said: "We have repeatedly pointed out that further cuts to State funding for neurological charities will compound the dreadful state of neurological care experienced by 700,000 people and their families in Ireland. The incoming government must engage with our Action Plan for Neurological Care and realise its obligations to more than 700,000 people with neurological conditions and their families. It can do that by putting in place the framework of statutory and voluntary services that is so desperately needed".

Almost one-fifth of people in Ireland have a neurological condition such as stroke, epilepsy, migraine, Alzheimer's disease, acquired brain injury and multiple sclerosis. Ireland's neurological care lags far behind the rest of Europe with the lowest number of neurologists and consultants in rehabilitation medicine among our European partners. The number of people developing neurological conditions as our population ages will increase by over 160,000 in the next ten years.

Thinking Ahead Campaign

Since the launch of the campaign last month, more than sixty political candidates have already pledged their support for neurological care following a call by NAI.

"Thinking Ahead" calls on the incoming government to develop services, working in partnership with neurological charities, that meet the needs of people with neurological conditions for diagnosis, treatment and long term support and rehabilitation.

A key element of "Thinking Ahead" is the critical importance of charities to neurological care in Ireland. Irish charities save the state millions of euro each year by subsidising the cost of neurological care through fundraising for vital services, including specialist nurses, physiotherapy and home care supports and through mobilising volunteers. The health service is reliant on the expertise and experience of these charities to provide specialist care and support to people with neurological conditions and their families.

For further information on the campaign, visit www.thinkingahead.ie

Attached Documents

PDF icon NAI Survey Report (NAI_full_survey_report.pdf | 363 kB)
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