According to the charity an investment of €880,000 can deliver a new national physiotherapy service to people with MS, and other neurological conditions, and save millions of euro in health service costs.
MS Ireland CEO Ave Battles forecast that this investment, using a blend of online and in person services, could deliver 3,726 individual appointments and 1,458 participants in group programmes annually.
“Currently many people with neurological conditions have little or no access to physiotherapy. We found during COVID-19 that providing online physiotherapy programmes has far greater reach and impact than we anticipated.
“We now propose harnessing these advantages and resourcing a sustainable national physiotherapy service for people with MS, and other neurological conditions.
“There are more than 700,000 people living with neurological conditions in Ireland, and these account for one in eight consultations in primary care and one in five emergency medical admissions to hospital.
“Of these in excess of 9,000 people are living with MS. Our research shows that people with this condition have very significant annual health service utilisation with 54,000 GP visits, 16,450 nights in hospital, 1,544 emergency department visits per year.
“Our analysis is that delaying and reducing disability due to the condition could reduce costs to the health system annually by €19m. We have the expertise and network to work with the Department of Health and HSE to deliver this plan and bring very significant benefit to thousands of people.”
MS Ireland, Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist, Professor Susan Coote said in any three-month period over 50% of people with MS will fall, which is similar to the fall rates of people over the age of 85.
“Our physiotherapy programmes teach people how to analyse their falls and give them management strategies to prevent future falls, thus preventing injury and need for additional care. Physiotherapy also plays a vital role in preventing disability and in improving physical and mental health symptoms.
“We have written to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, the Department of Health and HSE outlining this plan and the evidence to support it – and we are calling for engagement to progress and deliver it. There are so many people who we can help to achieve better outcomes.”
Ms Battles said the funding would provide for one Senior Physiotherapist plus running costs in each of the nine HSE CHO areas, together with an overall national manager and administrator. The cost for all nine CHOs is €880,000 per annum, and €94,000 per CHO area.
“Moving our services online during 2020 and 2021 enabled over 1,600 people attending the local exercise classes to continue via Zoom.
“In addition 440 additional participants took part in a pilot ‘Active Neuro’ online programme in the mid-west region alone. This new programme also supported people with other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease. Our plan includes for rolling out Active Neuro nationwide, bringing significant health benefits to thousands.
“We found that during COVID we were able to create groups with similar needs, and deliver online physiotherapy treatments that were really specific to needs, and hence highly effective. However, online does not fit all and future services should be a blend ‘in person’ and online.
“These developments show enormous potential to improve the health of many people nationally. What is needed is a sustainable structure and funding mechanism. We are calling on the Minister for Health and HSE to work with us to ensure that people can access these benefits”, Ms Battles concluded.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.