Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Questions (515)

Dominic Hannigan


515. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland regarding persons with neurological conditions and their access to care and persons who have to access private care due to waiting lists; the concerns regarding persons losing medical cards who have neurological conditions, issues with access to respite care; his plans to deal with these concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24418/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Health services for people with multiple sclerosis, are provided across a range of settings, by different organisations and by many health professionals and carers. The Government recognises that neurological illness or injury has significant implications for the individual and their family, which impacts on their social, educational, vocational and recreational participation. Waiting times, access, treatment and quality of care, are a priority for reform for this Government, despite budgetary constraints. In relation to specialist disability support services, the Health Service Executive (HSE) will spend €1.4 billion and employ a staff level of approximately 15,000 whole time equivalents in 2014 to deliver its Disability Services Programme.

The HSE is embarking on a large scale reform programme, which will transform our model of service to a community-based model of person-centred care. This Government is also committed to a significant strengthening of primary care services. The HSE has provided additional funding and filled 200 additional primary care team posts including public health nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists.

Where medical cards are concerned, the Government has decided to develop a new policy framework for eligibility for the award of medical cards to take account of on-going medical conditions. The HSE has established an Expert Panel to examine the range of conditions that should be considered as a basis of eligibility and has been asked to make an early report to Government. In this context, the HSE has decided to suspend reviews of medical cards where discretion had been exercised to take account of medical circumstances, pending the outcome of this process. This includes people who are currently in the appeals process. The HSE has extended eligibility of the individuals concerned, who are in the process of being advised in the normal way.

The Government is examining how best to address the situation of persons with serious medical conditions who had been issued with a medical card on a discretionary basis, but who have already completed the review process (and appeal process, as relevant) and who are not eligible to retain that card. The Government is examining the most effective and timely way of progressing such change.