Lack of funding for specialist Parkinson’s Disease nurses ‘critical’ as diagnoses set to double

Parkinson’s support organisations call for 31 additional Parkinson’s Disease nurse specialists over next five years

HSE funding is urgently needed for specialist Parkinson’s Disease (PD) nurses, as diagnoses of PD in Ireland are set to double by 2040, according to the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland and Young Parkinson’s Ireland.

Over 12,000 people are living with Parkinson’s Disease in Ireland. It is the fastest growing neurological disorder in the world, with increasing incidences in the under 65 age cohort. In addition, since 2019, several specialist nurses have left their posts without being replaced, resulting in just six to serve the population.

Only 21 per cent of people with Parkinson’s Disease reported having had any access to a PD nurse specialist since diagnosis, significantly less than the National Institute of Clinical Excellence guidelines that state people with Parkinson’s should be seen at least twice a year.

Tony Wilkinson, Chairperson, Cork Parkinson’s Association, said funding to support additional PD nurse specialists is absolutely critical – to meet growing demand, Ireland needs 31 over the next five years, while the country currently only has six.

“PD specialist nurses provide hugely valuable services to people living with the disease, including medication review and adherence, coordination of care, emotional support and counselling, treating non-motor symptoms, home visits and providing support to those living with Parkinson’s in managing their own care,” he said.

“This support can allow those living with the disease to have more independence and autonomy and ultimately reduce pressure on the hospitals. Alongside this, each specialist nurse will save the HSE up to €300,000 a year, which could be invested into other services.”

Nurses do not currently receive specialist Parkinson’s Disease training at undergraduate level and are required to shadow a consultant neurologist for two years before becoming fully qualified PD nurse specialists. Cork Parkinson’s Association has secured support from two consultant neurologists to facilitate this training.

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