Audit of Neurology Services

Findings from the first national audit of neurology services highlight widespread deficits 

A report on the findings from the first national audit of neurology services, launching today, points to widespread deficits accross neurology services nationwide. The audit, based on reports from each of the eleven neurology centres was carried out as part of a joint collaboration between the Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI), the national umbrella for 31 neurological charities and the National Clinical Programme for Neurology. The findings reveal stark deficits in staffing numbers with no dedicated multidisciplinary teams in some regional centres and every centre affected by gaps in key disciplines. Ratios for the recommended number of neurologists per head of population (1:70,0000) are exceeded within each hospital group with the Mid West hospital group coming out worst with a ratio of 1:200,000.

Lack of dedicated beds is another critical issue, with only six of the eleven centres having dedicated beds and even these are constantly under pressure from other departments. As a result patients with treatable neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis often wait for a bed and treatment.

Waiting times for routine MRI scanning exceed twelve months in seven of the eleven centres, often delaying diagnosis and treatment. Ten of the eleven neurology centres reported very limited or no access to community neurorehabilitation services which are crucial for recovery and prevention of disability for people with neurological conditions. The lack of neurorehabilitation services places an unsustainable burden on neurology services which are unable to discharge patients, or are forced to readmit patients for therapy services that should be available in the community.

Speaking today, Professor Lynch, Clinical Lead with the Neurology Programme and Director of the Dublin Neurological Institute highlighted the impact of this continued underinvestment in neurology services on the year on year crisis in emergency departments “One in five admissions from A&E is for a neurological condition, we have clear evidence that if more of these patients were under the care of a consultant neurologist we would prevent the need for unnecessary admissions and vastly improve the standard of care to patients”.

Magdalen Rogers of the Neurological Alliance of Ireland said “These findings mean we now have clear evidence for what both clinicians and people with neurological conditions have been telling us for years, that neurology services are struggling, that there is a lottery of care depending on where you live and that we are failing to provide the level and type of care for 800,000 Irish people with neurological conditions which is taken for granted in other European countries". The NAI are calling on all political parties to make neurology and neurorehabilitation services a key priority in their upcoming election pledges”. 

Further reading

Pat McCarthy from Letterkenny, who has MS, shares his experiences of neurology services in the North West: Article in the Donegal News (29th January 2016).