Waterford has been identified as a geographic ‘black hole’ in terms of the number of dedicated neurology staff and services allocated to the region.
A new report has claimed that neurology services at University Hospital Waterford (UHW) are chronically understaffed and waiting lists are amongst the longest in the country. This is causing significant delays in getting access to diagnostic treatment, compounded by a worrying lack of community-based, post-treatment rehab.
There are currently 596 people waiting for a first appointment with the neurology services at UHW. Of these, 175 patients have been waiting up to three months; 152 have been waiting between three and six months; 159 waiting six to nine months; 57 waiting nine to 12 months; 48 have been waiting 12 to 15 months and a further five patients have been waiting 15 to 18 months.
The Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI)’s National Survey of Neurology Services 2015, published yesterday (Monday), identified ‘stark’ deficits in staffing at UHW, with little or no access to multidisciplinary teams for patients and a lack of dedicated neurology beds.
Waiting lists for MRI scanning is a significant problem, the report stated, and there is limited access to neurorehabilitation services. The report highlighted very limited access to occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy for neurology patients in Waterford, while there are no dedicated neuropsychology services available.
Many patients are waiting over a year for initial diagnostic MRI brain scans. Delays in MRI scans are linked to delayed diagnosis and treatment, posing significant patient risks.
Limited access was reported to local community neurorehabilitation services, which are said by experts to be vital to supporting recovery and preventing disability among people with neurological conditions. The NAI said this results in neurology patients who manage to get initial diagnosis and treatment taking up hospital beds instead of being treated in their own community. An estimated one-in-five cases presenting to Emergency Departments are estimated to have a neurological background.
The Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI) is an the umbrella body for over 30 neurological charities and the 2015 report was compiled in collaboration with the HSE’s National Neurology Programme.