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Dr Hussey, who is also Senior Lecturer in the RCSI and Associate Clinical Professor of Paediatrics in University College Dublin, has noted an increase in the amount of Irish children diagnosed with IBD, particularly Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
While approximately 100 children aged under 16 years are diagnosed with IBD each year, the real number of undiagnosed children in the community is likely to be between 400-to-500.
“You treat the patient but you also need to engage with parents and other family members. One-third of children with IBD are in need of psychological support for low mood and adjustment difficulty with their condition. It really has a significant impact on their psychosocial development,” Dr Hussey told MI.
Dr Hussey called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to address the issue of childhood IBD and to resource services to improve the delivery of care.
“If you have a well-resourced service that can actually proactively manage these elements, you can make far greater inroads and really turn a child’s life around. If you have an ad-hoc, poorly-resourced service — or if children are treated like ‘mini-adults’ — it becomes a disaster.”
In terms of manpower, “we are at about 50 per cent of what we need to deliver the service properly”. He continued: “This has an impact, not just within the hospital, but nationally — it’s not just about needing more consultants, but right across the multidisciplinary team. We receive about two-to-three times more referrals each week for endoscopies than we actually have the capacity for.”
Children are waiting longer for procedures than their adult counterparts. “There is a national programme in paediatrics, but there isn’t one for gastroenterology. IBD is not one of the higher-profile conditions in terms of the media; it’s amazing how many people can’t believe that a child aged six, eight or 10 can have IBD, not to mind need biologic treatment.
“Unless somebody at high political level is willing to make this a priority, it’s not going to be made a priority by anybody else.”