MS Index highlights severe lack of specialist healthcare services for people living with MS in Ireland

The Futureproofing Healthcare MS Index focuses on the treatment of MS across 30 European countries, with Ireland ranking in bottom third overall

Monday, 20th January 2020: A severe lack of specialist services and healthcare specialists - such as neurologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and psychologists - is impacting the level of care and quality of life for people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in Ireland and their families. That’s according to the FutureProofing Healthcare MS Index, in which Ireland ranked 22nd out of 30 European countries.


A series of panel meetings have taken place at which Irish healthcare experts and people living with MS have interrogated the data in an Irish context and called for urgent action to be taken to address the deficit of specialist services and access to information for people affected by the disease in Ireland. These panels have included former Tánaiste and Minister for Health Mary Harney; GP & media commentator Dr. Nina Byrnes; Chief Executive of MS Ireland, Ava Battles; and Rebecca Maguire, Lecturer in Psychology at Maynooth University


The MS Index - which was led by an independent panel of experts, in partnership with Roche - gives an in-depth analysis of the state of care for MS in 30 European healthcare systems, based on data from reputable public sources such OECD, Eurostat, MS Barometer and The Lancet. The Index measures each country’s performance based on three Vital Signs, with each made up of a number of individual measures.


Key findings of the FutureProofing Healthcare MS Index for Ireland:


  1. Diagnosis and Outcomes: Ireland performed worse than 24 other European countries for this vital sign. The Index explored a number of measures within this vital sign which led to this score, including the severe shortage of neurologists per capita in Ireland, and a low number of MRI units available. While the country performed moderately well on outcomes, the Index found that only one quarter of people living with MS in Ireland are in the workforce.


  1. Support and Management: Ireland lagged significantly behind most other western European countries for this Vital Sign. This can be put down to down to multiple areas of weakness outlined by the Index in this area, including both a shortage of healthcare professionals and lack of access to rehabilitation services.


  1. Daily Living: Ireland ranked 21st in Europe for this vital sign, which was calculated based on measures including availability of flexible working conditions, sick pay, disability benefits, youth support, cost of housing. The Index found that the length of statutory sick pay and level of disability benefits are relatively short/low in Ireland, while there is a moderate ability for people with disabilities to set their own flexible working arrangements.

Speaking about the findings, Ava Battles, said: “Ireland’s performance in the MS Index is quite poor, which is unsurprising due to the chronic lack of specialist services available to people living with MS in this country. Ireland has two neurologists per 100,000 people, which – along with the UK – is the lowest seen across all 30 countries. There is also no rehabilitation centre available for people with MS in Ireland. However, it’s also clear from analysing the Index findings that there is a severe lack of data available at national or European level, to allow us to get an accurate picture of the state of care for people living with MS. That is something that needs to be addressed, potentially through a patient register, similar to that which we have for other disease areas such as the National Cancer Registry.”


Speaking about the findings, Pierre-Alain Delley, General Manager of Roche Products (Ireland) Limited said: “The purpose of this Index is to gather data from across Europe for the first time, to allow us to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by people living with MS and their families. By working with partners and experts and most importantly, patients, Roche is committed to co-creating truly patient-centric healthcare systems and we hope this Index will serve as a vehicle to drive these much-needed initiatives.”


The FutureProofing Healthcare MS Index has aggregated over 660 data points on 18 individual healthcare measures from reputable public sources such as WHO, OECD, Eurostat across 30 European countries.  


Review the MS Index data by visiting, join the conversation using #FutureProofIndex and follow the Index on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

An overview of key findings from the Index can also be viewed in this short video, which you are welcome to share:

A white paper report that gives further insight into the MS Index results for Ireland and provides clear calls to action from the expert panel and can be found at: