I appreciate the Cathaoirleach allowing this matter to be discussed. He is aware of its importance. I welcome my fellow county man, the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Feighan, to the House to reply on this matter. I know he has a good interest in it.
We have to consider the importance of this issue throughout the health sector. University Hospital Galway, UHG, is the western regional centre for neurology. However, it is short of neurology nurse specialists. Patients are waiting longer for diagnosis and treatment. National and international guidelines recommend that, on the basis of catchment area, there should be 13 neurology nurse specialists in this region but there are only four of them. Investing in more neurology nurses is a cost-efficient way of improving the efficiency of outpatient clinics, reducing waiting times and ensuring patients have access to the specialist support they need to manage their conditions. Patients who have access to neurology nurses have reported an improved sense of involvement in their care and being more prepared for tests and investigations. The provision of more neurology nurses will ensure that patients get quicker access to outpatient therapy, reducing waiting lists and ensuring any deterioration in the health status of patients can be mitigated. This will also ensure that additional hospital resources can be focused on those who need them.
I fully support the campaign of the Neurological Alliance of Ireland for 100 extra neurology nurse specialists, of whom nine will be for Galway. We should take note of all the areas of health that are related to neurology, such as epilepsy, head trauma, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, headaches related to migraine, muscular dystrophy and other disorders, particularly those relating to the spine. There are 700,000 people in Ireland affected by neurological issues. The Minister of State may have some good news for me. I am very interested in appointments to UHG. I will speak about Cork University Hospital, CUH, in a moment. I particularly want to know about the clinical nurse neurology paediatric position, the paediatric neurodevelopmental position and the clinical nurse specialist dealing with neurology and headaches. The Minister of State may not have that specific information for me today. If he does not, I hope he will be able to provide it to me in the near future.
I refer to the west and north-west regions.
There is a population of almost 600,000 people and University Hospital Galway is the centre of neurology to deal with that whole area. Some of the people campaigning for this have made the point to me that an additional nurse, who could talk to patients on the phone, can often talk a patient who is suffering from neurological issues through his or her circumstances and he or she may not need a hospital visit.
It is crucial we address this issue and that we seek better neurological services throughout the country for the many people who need them. I thank the Minister of State for attending. I hope he will have some good news for me.