Home » Neurology » Irish neurology nurses call for more investment to support patients

Sinead Jordan

Advanced Nurse Practitioner for multiple sclerosis, St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin
Chair/Cofounder of the INNF

Máire Hayes

Clinical Nurse Specialist, the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association,
Education Officer/Cofounder of the INNF

Elaine Quinn

Neuroscience partner (multiple sclerosis), Roche Products Ireland Ltd.

Nurse specialists in neurology are chronically under-resourced, but they are driving change for the estimated 800,000 people living with a neurological condition in Ireland. 

With an estimated 40,000 new patients a year being diagnosed with a neurological condition, it’s often a frightening time for patients and their families.

Neurology nurses speak out for their patients 

The clinical nurses supporting neurology patients provide outstanding care. However, there are not enough clinical nurse specialists in neurology; in fact, there are just 42 in Ireland.  

That is why experienced nurses in the field have set up the Irish Neurology Nursing Forum (INNF) — to call for better resourcing, more funding for education in the speciality, healthcare provision and support for patients and their families. 

We still need another 80 specialist nurses, which we hope will be provided over the next few years.

Lack of specialist nurses in neurology 

The recently formed INNF is already making progress. Set up to mobilise change nationally, they played a key role as part of last year’s Patients Deserve Better Campaign, which succeeded in securing 23 additional specialist nursing posts which were announced by Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte in the 2023 budget.  

The two cofounders of the INNF, Máire Hayes and Sinead Jordan, both neurology nurse specialists, worked with the Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI), 15 of its member organisations and Roche Ireland, to highlight the shortage of specialist nurses in neurology.  

Jordan recalls: “At the time of the Patients Deserve Better Campaign in 2022, 23,000 people were waiting for a neurology outpatient appointment — and 8,000 of those waiting more than 18 months — meaning huge delays in diagnosis and treatment. Investing in more neurology nurse specialists will reduce waiting times and Emergency Department presentations, free up capacity for consultants and ensure patients across the country have access to the specialist support they need. It will also align with the Sláintecare vision to expand services.” 

Hayes adds: “The awareness campaign has been really positive in shedding light on the lack of neurology nurse specialists. The €1.7m funding commitment is a great first step. However, we still need another 80 specialist nurses, which we hope will be provided over the next few years. In the meantime, we invite all neurology nurses to join the INNF.” 

Jordan highlights: “There are 10,500 people living with multiple sclerosis in Ireland but just 24 trained specialist nurses in that area. Extraordinarily, there are only four for Parkinson’s patients.” 

Image provided by Irish Neurology Nursing Forum

Training and development for neurology nurses 

Another problem is there is no formal postgraduate course for neurology nurses in Ireland, affecting recruitment. “We have to go to the UK to gain specialist training, whereas we need training on the ground in Ireland to entice graduate nurses into our speciality,” says Hayes.  

To this end, we are collaborating with Professor Orla Hardiman, National Clinical Lead of Neurology, in the design and development of a postgraduate neurology course. Graduate nurses will be able to study for the speciality through continuous education modules leading to the required level 9 qualification.”

Roche Ireland is committed to supporting nurse specialists in neurology. “Their refreshing approach to partnership has been instrumental in getting the INNF established,” says Hayes. “They also support our training and development.” 

Jordan says: “The INNF will give a stronger voice to neurology nurses by enabling them to better advocate for themselves, particularly in addressing challenges with capacity, resourcing, education and policy.” 

Invest in neurology nurses to reduce backlogs 

Elaine Quinn, neuroscience partner at Roche, concludes: “People with neurological conditions have a multitude of complex needs that call for a coordinated, holistic approach. If there is more awareness of the value nurses bring to the wider neurology team and the need to recruit extra nurses, we can change the course of their lives.”

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If you are a neurology nurse, please join the INNF by emailing [email protected]

Twitter: @innforum1

LinkedIn: Irish Neurology Nursing Forum

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