Access to neurological services worse than during recession

By June Shannon Stroke News   |   19th Mar 2020

Percentage of people with a neurological condition who cannot access vital services has more than doubled since 2011.

A new survey from the Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI), of which the Irish Heart Foundation is a member, has found that the percentage of people with a neurological condition who cannot access vital services including physiotherapy, has more than doubled since 2011.

The findings of the online survey of 400 people which was carried out in November and December 2019 by the NAI, were released ahead of Brain Awareness Week (16th to 22nd March).

According to the research, of those surveyed, 18 per cent of people living with a neurological condition said that they could not access physiotherapy services in 2019, a doubling of the percentage who could not access these services in 2011 (9 per cent).

The percentage of people who could not access a neurologist has also doubled from 4 per cent in 2011 to 10 per cent last year, while 20 per cent of people living with a neurological condition in 2019 could not access counselling compared to 10 per cent in 2001, the survey found.

Almost half of respondents reported paying more than €100 in associated healthcare costs

.

The proportion of people with a neurological condition who are waiting more than 12 months to see a neurologist for the first time has also increased with 37 per cent of those surveyed reported to be waiting more than 12 months in 2019, compared to 33 per cent in 2011. The highest waiting times are in Munster with 41 per cent of people surveyed reported that they were waiting more than 12 months for their first appointment with a neurologist, according to the survey.

The survey also questioned respondents about the associated costs of healthcare for their condition. Almost half of respondents reported paying more than €100 in associated healthcare costs as a result of having a neurological condition with the most significant area of expenditure on physiotherapy.

Furthermore, the NAI survey found that 18 per cent of those surveyed said they needed neuropsychology support but could not afford it, 15 per cent couldn’t afford much needed physiotherapy services and 17 per cent required counselling but could not afford it.

Neurological conditions are the leading cause of disability worldwide and the second leading cause of death. More than 800,000 Irish people are living with neurological conditions including stroke, epilepsy, dementia, acquired brain injury, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease as well as rare and genetic conditions.

" Between 2011 and 2019 it was found that the percentage of people who reported they could not access vital services had more than doubled,"

Magdalen Rogers, Executive Director , NAI

Speaking in advance of Brain Awareness Week next week, Executive Director for the NAI Magdalen Rogers, said, “Our periodic survey on Living with a Neurological Condition in Ireland examined access to services for the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of neurological conditions. Between 2011 and 2019 it was found that the percentage of people who reported they could not access vital services had more than doubled, including neurology, nurse specialists, physiotherapy and counselling services.

Waiting times to see a neurologist have also increased with 37 per cent reporting a waiting time of more than twelve months in 2019 compared to 33 per cent in 2011. Our survey, which was conducted towards the end of 2019, also looked at waiting times by region. It was found that Munster has the most significant proportion of long waits with 41 per cent reporting waiting more than twelve months”.

The NAI believes that one of the critical reasons for this is the complete lack of progress that has been made in implementing the National Neurorehabilitation Strategy which was published nearly a decade ago in 2011. The strategy committed to providing a nationwide network of hospital and community-based services for people with conditions such as stroke, acquired brain injury, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

"We are calling on any new Government to honour commitments made over decades to invest in services for the 800,000 Irish people living with neurological conditions".

Magdalen Rogers, Executive Director , NAI

According to the NAI, a further challenge is the significant threat to existing services from successive years of cutbacks to Section 39 disability organisations which are the primary providers of specialist services to people with neurological conditions living in the community.

Ms Rogers noted, “these organisations stepped in because the State did not develop the neurorehabilitation services taken for granted in other countries. Now we have a serious crisis for people with neurological conditions in this country as even the limited services they have are under threat”.

Ms Rogers demanded action from any new Government to invest in neurology and neurorehabilitation services including those provided by Section 39 organisations. “We are calling on any new Government to honour commitments made over decades to invest in services for the 800,000 Irish people living with neurological conditions”.

About Brain Awareness Week
Love Your Brain is an awareness campaign run by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland to coincide with National Brain Awareness Week March 16th to 22nd. The campaign is supported by Irish Actor Michael Fassbender and aims to promote understanding of the brain and brain disease as well as the need for investment in services, research and prevention.

For more information visit www.loveyourbrain.ie

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Brain awareness week Neurological Association of Ireland Neurological Conditions rehabilitation stroke stroke recovery stroke rehabilitation

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