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Reorienting the headache patient journey a priority — Prof Hardiman

Reducing reliance on the hospital system for patients with headache is among the key goals of the HSE Clinical Programme for Neurology, Clinical Lead Prof Orla Hardiman has told the Medical Independent (MI).

Prof Hardiman, who was appointed as the new Clinical Lead earlier this year, told MI: “Thirty per cent of all neurological referrals are headache across the board and it is the seventh-most common cause of referral to the emergency department and the second-most common reason for referral to the MAU [medical assessment unit].”

She continued: “We have been working on a plan, with the Migraine Association of Ireland, to try and change the headache patient journey to both try and improve the outcome for patients and reduce reliance on the hospital care system. So we are working on a very detailed programme with colleagues who run the migraine clinics, working closely with the Migraine Association of Ireland and also with the pharmacists, because some of the migraine drugs such as Sumatriptan are available over the counter so the pharmacists are very keen to work with us on this, and of course the GPs as well.”

The neurology programme will also focus on furthering links between specialist and community services in motor neurone disease (MND) care and Prof Hardiman said the HSE has “accepted in principle” the MND centre at Beaumont Hospital “should be funded as a national centre”. Enhancing the level of services available to patients with common neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease is also a priority. 

Prof Hardiman said another workstream related to “concerns” for colleagues in regions where “they are massively overburdened because there is a huge limitation of workforce and huge clinical load”, particularly in the west and southeast.

“We are rolling out some plans about how to improve and support Sligo as a neurological hub in the west of Ireland and looking to see what the best options for the southeast are.”

As well as submissions through the estimates process, the programme is submitting a number of proposals under the Sláintecare Integration Fund.

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