Ireland has less than half neurologists required

Decades of underinvestment have resulted in Ireland  having the lowest ratio of consultant neurologists per head of the population in the developed world, according to the Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI).

The NAI said that according to the Association of British Neurologists recommendations, each country should have one neurologist for every 70,000 people.

The NAI said the recommended ratio was exceeded in every hospital group in the country, with the 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 NAI has called on the government to tackle unacceptable staffing deficits, 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 had not improved since an audit published in 2016, despite the upturn in the economic climate. 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.

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”.