A petition signed by 11,000 people calling for a nationwide network of nurse specialists for people with Parkinson’s disease has been presented to the Minister for Older People, Helen McEntee, following a protest at Leinster House.

Tony Wilkinson, who was among the Parkinson’s sufferers to travel to Dublin for the protest, said having community-based nurse specialists made sense economically and would greatly benefit patients.

“They have community-based nurse specialists in Germany, France and the UK, where I come from. I was diagnosed three-and-a-half years ago in the UK and, within two weeks, a nurse called to my home to meet myself and my wife.

“These nurses, who are allowed to prescribe, visit up to five times a year and because they see the patient regularly, they can see minor changes in their condition and can adjust their treatment accordingly. It means patients don’t have to endure long waiting times to see their consultant and it cuts down on hospital admissions,” Tony said.

Tony, who now lives in Bandon, Co Cork, said the nurses currently available to people with Parkinson’s are hospital-based and only available at the end of a phone. He said they had done the maths, and estimated that the health service could save €300,000 for every community-based nurse specialist recruited. He said Cork needed three nurse specialists, but had none.

Currently, 12,000 people in the country with Parkinson’s have access to just four nurses — there are five posts, but one is vacant. The National Collaborating Centre for Chronic Conditions guidelines state there should be one Parkinson’s nurse specialist for every 300 patients, putting Ireland way below the recommended number.

Parkinson’s Association CEO Paula Gilmore also criticised the lack of direct Government funding for the association and the unavailability of deep brain stimulation (DBS), a treatment for the condition only available to patients who travel abroad.

Ms Gilmore said a nationwide nurse specialist service and direct funding would save the Government money in the long term “as it would reduce the number of bed nights our members need to spend in hospital”.

“The Parkinson’s Association, with its knowledge of people’s needs, could target funding and services where they are most needed,” she said.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder. There is no cure.


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