MS Ireland launches campaign for National Physiotherapy Plan

MS Ireland wants to employ nine specialist physiotherapists throughout Ireland to reach more people with MS and other neurological conditions. Setting up a national physiotherapy programme could save the state €19 million. MS Ireland, which has called for State funding to run a countrywide physiotherapy service, has said that delivering regular specialist physiotherapy to people with MS would significantly reduce GP and emergency department (ED) visits and hospital stays for this group of patients. Dr. Susan Coote, MS Ireland’s Exercise and Physiotherapy Co-Ordinator launched the campaign this week with AVA Battles, CEO MS Ireland, Senator Martin Conway and Deputy Colm Burke from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health at MS Ireland’s Bushy Park Campus in Dublin.


MS Ireland is calling on the Government to support its vital appeal to fund its proposed National Physiotherapy Plan to employ 9 full time physiotherapists regionally in Ireland to enable 1,215 people to receive group physiotherapy programmes and to deliver 3,726 individual appointments per annum.

Dr. Susan Coote, MS Ireland’s Exercise and Physiotherapy Co-Ordinator launched the campaign with Deputy Colm Burke from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health at MS Ireland’s Care Centre in Dublin.

Speaking at the launch Dr Coote said “Our plan is for a national physiotherapy service, delivered at regional level, provided by a specialist team of physiotherapists directly employed by MS Ireland. The funding of this program would help address the issue of insufficient access to local primary care due to long waiting lists.

“Physiotherapy plays a vital role in improving and maintaining both physical and mental health symptoms and enabling people with MS, and other progressive neurological conditions, to live healthy lives in their communities and to prevent the development of secondary health issues”.

“Our research (The Cost of MS in Ireland) shows that delaying and reducing disability due to MS could reduce costs to the Irish health system annually by €19m. The estimated annual national cost of this program is €880,000 thus potentially saving the health service multiples of that cost”.

The charity, which provides physiotherapy services to one-fifth of people with MS in Ireland, wants to employ nine specialist physiotherapists throughout Ireland to reach more people with MS and other neurological conditions.

Dr Coote said that studies have shown the effectiveness of physiotherapy in reducing symptoms severity, disability, falls and reduced use of health services.

“Physiotherapy also improves individuals’ mental health, their participation in physical activities and enables them to live well at home,” said Dr Coote.

MS Ireland, the 700,000 people with neurological conditions in Ireland account for one in eight primary care consultations and one in five emergency admissions to hospital. Many of the over 9,000 people with MS in Ireland have reported difficulty accessing regular physiotherapy services through primary care teams.

“People with MS have told us that they can’t get physiotherapy through the HSE and if they do, it’s not for long enough,” said Dr Coote.

Outlining the benefits of the plan Eva Battles, CEO MS Ireland said “This service would provide health promoting physical activity and symptom management strategies in groups alongside individual treatment as needed by people with MS, and also other neurological conditions. MS Ireland is asking for engagement with the Government, the Department of Health and the HSE to discuss, plan and deliver these services throughout Ireland which could have a major positive impact on thousands of people’s lives.

Pascal Stephens from Glasnevin, Dublin is a regular participant in MS Ireland’s physio programmes "I am very thankful to M.S. Ireland for providing physio classes for many years now. Physio really is as beneficial as medication. The classes are an excellent use of resources. I believe physio classes have played a large part in keeping me mobile and independent. I also love the social aspect too. I am very thankful for them”.   

 People with MS have very significant annual health service utilisation with 54,000 GP visits, 16,450 nights in hospital, 1,544 emergency department visits per year. The costs of MS increase with increasing disability, therefore maintaining people’s status and rehabilitating post relapse or with progression is key.

This programme will help the HSE to reduce the burden on primary care waiting lists, avoid A&E and OPD pinch points and prevent disability and comorbidities. The programme aligns with the objectives of the Slainte Care programme ‘Right Care, Right Time, Right Place’ with the addition of “Right Physiotherapist” to enhance outcomes.

According to Dr Coote “Extensive research has shown the effectiveness of this service in reducing symptom severity, disability, falls and healthcare utilisation, and in improving mental health, physical activity participation and enabling people to live well at home”.

This evidence is generated from the research and audit of over 25 years of delivering physiotherapy programmes for people with MS. MS Ireland launched a pilot programme called Active Neuro as part of a Sláintecare integration fund project in 2020/21 that expanded their programmes to people with other neurological conditions in the Midwest region based on the specialist online programmes developed during the pandemic.

According to Dr Coote “Like many services – MS Ireland moved many of our physiotherapy programmes online during COVID as a necessity. However, we found that providing online programmes, to people with MS and other neurological conditions, has far greater benefit and impact than we anticipated. Moving online during 2020 and 2021 enabled over 1,600 people attending the local exercise classes to continue via Zoom.

“In addition, 440 participants took part in our pilot ‘Active Neuro’ programme in the mid-west. This new programme also successfully supported people with many other neurological conditions including Parkinson’s Disease, stroke and ataxias.

“As location and transport were no longer issues we were able to create groups with similar needs and deliver physiotherapy treatments that were specific to needs, and hence highly effective”.

“Our plan is to make this program nationwide to reach a very significant number of people with MS together with other conditions. However, online does not fit all and future services will be a blend ‘in person’ and online. We now need a sustainable structure and funding mechanism to ensure that people with MS and other neurological conditions can access these benefits”.


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  About MS Ireland   

 MS Ireland is the national organisation providing information, vital services and support to the MS community. We provide a wide range of specialised services and resources on a national, regional and local level. Services include; Regional Community Worker programmes for one-to-one support; physiotherapy; symptom management courses; newly diagnosed sessions and the MS Information Line, one of the first services used in the time leading up to or following a diagnosis. We also provide the only national respite and therapy centre for people with MS in Ireland.   

More than two-thirds of the 9,000 people living with MS in Ireland access these resources. All those affected by the condition rely on MS Ireland to advocate on their behalf on any issues which will impact their quality of life.   
To find out more about the work of MS Ireland or to donate visit or contact us at 0818 233 233 or by email