Following a number of meetings with various interest groups, I requested Comhairle na nOspidéal to conduct a review of neurological services and related issues. Comhairle na nOspidéal established a committee to examine,inter alia, existing arrangements for the provision of consultant level neurology and neurophysiology services nationally and to make recommendations on the future organisation and development of those services. Comhairle na nOspidéal has now published its report and, having considered it, I am happy to endorse its recommendations.
The report recommends significant enhancement of neurology and neurophysiology services, including increases in consultant manpower. It also recognises that there are aspects of a number of other specialties and services, such as rehabilitation medicine, geriatric medicine and old age psychiatry, which are related to and overlap with neurology services. Comhairle na nOspidéal has recommended that a national multidisciplinary review of rehabilitation services be undertaken to further inform the policy framework on the development of neurology services.
Consistent with this recommendation and in line with commitments in the national health strategy, a national action plan for rehabilitation services is being prepared by my Department. The action plan will set out a programme to meet existing shortfalls in services and to integrate specialised facilities with locally based follow-up services. The rehabilitation action plan, together with the Comhairle na nOspidéal report and the work undertaken by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland through its publications, will offer a comprehensive policy framework for the future development of neurology and neurophysiology services in this country. My Department will continue to work closely with the alliance and the Irish Consultant Neurologists Association on the future development of services. The implementation of the recommendations will be progressed having regard to the evolving policy framework in this area and in the context of competing funding priorities.
Specialty costing data in respect of hospitals which provide neurology services indicate that in-patient costs for this specialty for 2002 were over €19 million. This figure excludes costs in respect of neurology services provided in out-patient and accident and emergency departments and specialist day case activity, which are not routinely collected by my Department.