People who have neurological conditions have been failed by the Government, a charity has claimed.
The Neurological Alliance of Ireland pointed to under-investment in services, growing waiting lists, and the failure to meet key commitments in the Programme for Government.
At a time when Ireland is researching and developing treatments for neurological conditions, people who have the diseases are struggling.
800,000 Irish people have a neurological condition, whether it be stroke, epilepsy, dementia, acquired brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or rare and genetic conditions. The executive director of the NAI, Mags Rogers, said they had waited over eight years for an implementation plan for the National Neurorehabilitation Strategy, before it was finally published this year, but with no commitment to investment.
“That is just paying lip service. Meanwhile, charities have seen successive cuts to their funding, which is impacting on vital services for people with neurological conditions and their families,” she said.
21,000 people are waiting to see a neurologist and waiting times continue to increase. There are also delays in people getting new medications.
The NAI is concerned that successive cuts are threatening vital services provided by voluntary organisations.
Their pre-budget submission calls for a €4.5m investment in neurorehabilitation services; a €2m investment in neurology services, and the protection of vital services provided by voluntary organisations.
Neurorehabilitation services support recovery and prevent disability for people who have neurological conditions.
Ireland has less than half of the specialist inpatient beds needed for a population of its size and community-based services are underdeveloped. Only three Community Health Organisations have dedicated — but partially staffed — neurorehabilitation teams.
Today is World Brain Day and the alliance will release research showing how Irish people with neurological conditions struggle with employment.
Three-quarters (78%) of those surveyed had to give up work because of their diagnosis, while one-fifth experienced significant difficulties in the workplace. Those who are self-employed are twice as likely to report issues. And 19% had not disclosed their condition to their employer.
Jane Whelan, who suffers from migraine, said people with a neurological condition could remain working, if their needs were accommodated.
“At a time of full employment in our economy, when we are struggling to fill positions, we continue to lose people from the workforce, when, often, all they need are simple adjustments to enable them to stay in work,” said Ms Whelan.
The executive director of the European Federation of Neurological Associations, Donna Walsh, said: “Recent reports suggest Ireland needs to catch up with other EU countries, in terms of numbers of neurologists and access to new and innovative treatments.”