I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 387 together.
In 2010 the Director of the Office of Clinical Strategy and Programmes in the HSE met the Irish Consultant Neurologists' Association (Neurology Faculty) to discuss how best to move neurological services forward in Ireland. Following discussions it was agreed to appoint a number of Neurologists to lead three key national programmes, giving neurological care a major focus in the HSE.
The first programme deals with neurology out patient departments and aims to provide standardised care for neurology patients and to increase access so that patients will not wait more than 30 days for an appointment. The programme will establish referral guidelines and encourage the increased use of neurolink.
The second programme deals with epilepsy services and aims to introduce of rapid access clinics to assist with admission avoidance and reduce the number of attendances to emergency departments. This will include the introduction of twenty four hour, seven day a week telephone access to expert opinion for all healthcare professionals. The HSE's service plan has made provision for the recruitment of twenty epilepsy specialist nurses to provide satellite/outreach services to patients.
The third programme deals with stroke services and aims to establish robust clinical governance systems for stroke care, including local stroke teams and regional stroke networks. This is due to include access to safe and effective stroke thrombolysis in all hospitals admitting acute stroke on a twenty four hour, seven day a week basis. The HSE's service plan also provides for the establishment of nine new acute stroke units in hospital admitting significant numbers of stroke patient.
The setting up of these programmes shows the importance that the HSE gives to neurological care and its commitment to improving access to neurological services.
Furthermore, the HSE has emphasised to my Department that all national programmes, including those concentrating on neurology, will have a focus on patient advocacy. These inter-related programmes aim to improve service quality, effectiveness and patient access and to ensure that patient care is provided in the service setting most appropriate to individuals' needs.
I am being briefed by my Department and the HSE on these important clinical programmes and on the organisation of acute services in each region.
I welcome the action plan for neurological care by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland, which emphasises the importance of neurological care and raises many issues that these Neurology programmes will address, including a comprehensive plan for improving neurological care including acute services and increasing staffing.
The action plan includes reference to access to neurological rehabilitation services. My Department is in the process of finalising a National Policy and Strategy for the delivery of Neuro-Rehabiltation Services in Ireland 2011 — 2015.
The Health Service Executive's National Service Plan for 2011 also includes a commitment to
target people waiting for a neurology out-patient appointment,
appoint a national clinical lead for neuro-rehabilitation,
establish an implementation structure and develop an implementation plan for neuro-rehabilitation.