Charity claims that a National Physiotherapy Program for MS Patients Could Cut State Expenses by €19m.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects thousands of people in Ireland and can cause a range of physical and cognitive impairments. However, a recent report from the MS Society of Ireland has highlighted that implementing a national physio programme for people with MS could save the State €19m. The report details how early and consistent access to physiotherapy can greatly improve the quality of life for those living with MS and reduce healthcare costs in the long term. As the government looks to allocate funding for healthcare services in the coming years, the MS Society’s findings could have a significant impact on the future of MS care in the country.

A national physiotherapy program specifically designed for people with multiple sclerosis could save the Irish government €19 million, according to Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Ireland, a leading Irish charity. The charity has called for state funding to run a country-wide physiotherapy service, stating that regular specialist physiotherapy would reduce GP and emergency department (ED) visits and hospital stays for patients with MS. Dr Susan Coote, exercise and physiotherapy co-ordinator with MS Ireland, explained that research conducted by the charity has shown that improved access to physiotherapy could delay and reduce disability due to MS, ultimately reducing costs to the Irish health service. MS Ireland estimates that the annual savings for the state from reduced GP and ED visits and hospital stays would be €19 million. 

The charity provides physiotherapy services to one fifth of people with MS in Ireland and is proposing to employ nine specialist physiotherapists throughout the country to reach more people with MS and other neurological conditions. The charity estimates the annual cost for this service to be €880,000. Dr Coote emphasised the effectiveness of physiotherapy in reducing symptom severity, disability, falls, and reducing the use of health services as well as improving the mental health and participation of individuals in physical activities. 

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In Ireland, 700,000 people with neurological conditions account for one in eight primary care consultations and one in five emergency admissions to hospital. Of the 10,000 people with MS in Ireland, many have reported difficulty accessing regular physiotherapy services through primary care teams. MS Ireland found that people with MS struggle to receive long enough, consistent physiotherapy care from the Health Service Executive (HSE). 

The proposed new specialist physiotherapy services would include group online/in-person physical activity and symptom-management programmes, as well as individual treatment sessions for people with MS and other neurological conditions. During the Covid-19 pandemic, MS Ireland moved many of their physiotherapy programmes online, allowing over 1,600 people attending local exercise classes to continue via Zoom. A Sláintecare pilot programme called Active Neuro in the Midwest region provided specialist online physiotherapy programmes to 440 people with neurological conditions. The charity is seeking to offer a blend of in-person and online physiotherapy services throughout Ireland, similar to what exists in the West of Ireland. 

Pascal Stephens from Glasnevin, Dublin, is a regular participant in MS Ireland’s physiotherapy programmes. He believes the physio classes have assisted him in keeping mobile and independent, and loves the social aspect of the sessions.

In conclusion, the implementation of a national physio programme for people with MS could not only significantly improve the quality of life for those affected by the disease, but also save the state a substantial amount of money. As highlighted by the MS Ireland charity, the cost savings associated with this initiative would have a significant impact on the country’s healthcare budget, and would help to ensure that individuals with MS receive the support and care they need to live active and independent lives. With continued advocacy and support from organizations like MS Ireland, we can work towards making this programme a reality, and improving the lives of those living with MS across our country.

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