23 May 2013: Quarterly Meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Children, the Minister for Health, James Reilly TD, and the HSE.

Question 32: Provision of Neuro- Rehabilitation Services

Question 33: Neurologist waiting lists

Question 34: Children’s palliative care programme

Question 32: Provision of Neuro- Rehabilitation Services

Following the publication of the National Policy and Strategy for the Provision of Neuro-Rehabilitation Services in Ireland 2011-2015 (December 2011), an undertaking was given to publish an implementation plan “forthwith”. Why has this implementation plan not been published to date? When will it be published? And, will it meet its 3-year implementation schedule by December 2014?

The Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE) have developed and published the “National Policy and Strategy for the provision of Neuro-Rehabilitation Services in Ireland 2011 – 2015”. In addition, the HSE is developing its Rehabilitation Medicine Programme within the Clinical Strategy and Programmes Directorate. The Report is the overarching policy on neuro-rehabilitation services and includes proposals for a framework for the future of neuro-rehabilitation services in Ireland, including key elements such as:
• guiding principles;
• implementation structure;
• methodology for implementation; and
• information and communication.

The Report recognises that given the current economic climate, the focus in the short to medium term has to be on re-configuration of services, structures and resources and the enhancement of the skills and competencies required to meet the changing context.

The key priority areas, as identified in the HSE’s National Operational Plan for 2013 are to:
• Map and develop Integrated Service Area level rehabilitation networks;
• Implement the model of care for rehabilitation services within the networks with a focus on community rehabilitation.

An implementation plan beyond the overall operational plan commitments would not be beneficial, as the work involved to progress networks and teams will require to be flexible and responsive to the areas identified and to their specific service profiles.

The Rehabilitation Medicine Programme has been working in collaboration with the National Disability Unit as part of an expert Working Group planning for the implementation of the Report. The Rehabilitation Medicine Programme has incorporated key elements of the Report into its own Model of Care and adopted the Strategy’s recommendation of “hub and spoke” model for specialist rehabilitation services and is keen to progress with a comprehensive model for the continuation of such service into the community. This co-operation will continue in 2013.

Question 33: Neurologist waiting lists.

What plans are in place to tackle waiting lists to see a neurologist in public hospital out-patients clinics, which are over 4 years for more than 1,000 patients? And, what will be done to cut the waiting time for neurosurgery, which is currently over 6 months for 37% of patients requiring this treatment?

Outpatient Services
An Outpatient Services Performance Improvement Protocol has been developed to improve the provision of outpatient services in all publically funded healthcare facilities providing outpatient services which will include neurology referrals. A minimum standard has been established of no patient waiting greater than 12 months by 30th November 2013. A primary target list has been developed for each hospital identifying all patients that will breach the target if not seen by 30th November 2013. Capacity analysis is currently being undertaken in all hospitals with regard to meeting this target. All hospitals are developing plans by specialty including neurology at present to address long waiting lists. Solutions being considered to tackle waiting lists to see a neurologist in public hospital out-patients clinics include data validation, patient level validation, additional clinic slots, additional clinics and capacity within the region.

Inpatient Services
In relation to inpatient neurosurgery services there are currently 452 patients awaiting inpatient/day case neurosurgery. Of this total 288 are waiting 0-6 months and 164 are waiting > 6 months.

The maximum wait time guarantee for all adults awaiting any type of inpatient or day case surgery is 8 months in 2013. The aim is for all hospitals to systematically reduce this maximum wait time each year by matching capacity with demand, eliminating inefficiencies in the patient pathway, ensuring the strict chronological management of patients of equal clinical priority and implementing the recommendations of the Surgery Clinical Programme

Question 34: Children’s palliative care programme

To ask the Minister for an update on the children’s palliative care programme currently funded by Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) and HSE. In particular: an assurance that all 8 children’s outreach nurses (5 IHF funded/3HSE funded) are now in post and if not, why and when will they be in post?; to outline the plans the Department of Health and HSE have to identify sources of sustainable funding for the Children’s palliative medicine consultant post (IHF funded) and the 8 outreach nurses when the IHF funding ends in 2016; and to confirm that children with terminal illness are entitled to the medical card without means test in the same way as adults.

The HSE and the Irish Hospice Foundation work in very close collaboration in relation to children’s palliative care services and the National Development Committee for children’s palliative care is jointly chaired by both organisations.

This Committee;
• Provides national strategic guidance in relation to children’s palliative care needs
• Makes recommendations in relation to the resourcing of children’s palliative care services.
• Oversees the preparation of development plans for each HSE Region

In support of this work and to ensure streamlined services across the country, a network of Outreach Nurses, Consultant ‘champions’ and Directors of Nursing has been established.

Four Palliative Care Outreach Nurses are already in post and the process of recruiting the remaining 4 is at a very advanced stage, with candidates selected for the 4 posts.

The HSE continues to work with the Irish Hospice Foundation to develop a sustainable model of funding post 2016.

Other priorities for the Committee are
• Developing an appropriate monitoring and evaluation process for the Children’s Outreach programme
• Identifying the respite and home care needs of children with life limiting conditions including the development of a ‘Hospice-at-Home’ service model
• Improving clinical Governance, education and development
• Developing minimum information data sets

Children with terminal illness are entitled to a medical card without means test in the same way as adults. No means test applies to an application by a terminally ill patient and all terminally ill patients will be provided with a medical card number for a period of six months once their medical condition is verified by a GP or a consultant.

The Lancet

In July 2021, Jillian co-authored an article in the world-renowned medical journal “The Lancet”