Nine full-time physiotherapists could deliver vital therapy sessions to people with MS in Ireland
A leading charity’s bid to deliver online physiotherapy services to people with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Ireland during the Covid-19 pandemic proved to be much more successful than had been expected.
That was the message delivered earlier today (24 March) by Susan Coote, an associate professor in physiotherapy at the University of Limerick’s department of clinical therapies who is also MS Ireland’s exercise and physiotherapy coordinator.
Zoom was a boon
Dr Coote said MS Ireland had moved many physiotherapy programmes online ‘as a necessity’ during the pandemic. ‘However, we found that providing online programmes to people with MS and other neurological conditions has far greater benefit and impact than we anticipated.'
Delivering courses via Zoom mean that 1,600 people could participate in exercise classes during 2020-2021, she explained. ‘In addition, 440 participants took part in our pilot ‘Active Neuro’ programme in the mid-west. This new programme also successfully supported people with many other neurological conditions including Parkinson’s disease, stroke and ataxias.'
Dr Coote explained. ‘As location and transport were no longer issues, we were able to create groups with similar needs and deliver physiotherapy treatments that were specific to needs –and hence highly effective.’
Physiotherapy plays a vital role in improving and maintaining both physical and mental health symptoms and enabling people with MS and other progressive neurological conditions to live healthy lives in their communities [Susan Coote]
National Physiotherapy Plan
MS Ireland is urging the Irish government to fund proposals – as set out in its National Physiotherapy Plan – to employ nine full-time physiotherapists to run group physiotherapy programmes. This would mean 1,215 people could take part, supplemented by 3,726 individual appointments that could be offered annually. The Irish Society of Physiotherapists said it 'fully supported' the proposals.
Dr Coote launched the campaign with Deputy Colm Burke from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health at MS Ireland’s Care Centre in Dublin. She said: ‘Our plan is for a national physiotherapy service – delivered at regional level – provided by a specialist team of physiotherapists directly employed by MS Ireland. The funding of this programme would help address the issue of insufficient access to local primary care due to long waiting lists.
‘Physiotherapy plays a vital role in improving and maintaining both physical and mental health symptoms and enabling people with MS and other progressive neurological conditions to live healthy lives in their communities and to prevent the development of secondary health issues.’
MS Ireland estimates that delaying and reducing disability associated with MS could reduce costs to the Irish health system annually by the equivalent of about £17 million. The charity currently provides physiotherapy services to one-person with MS in five in Ireland and Dr Coote said studies have shown that physiotherapy helps to reduce the severity of their symptoms, rates of disability and falls, and also cuts demand on other health services.
‘Physiotherapy also improves individuals’ mental health, their participation in physical activities and enables them to live well at home,’ Dr Coote noted. Many of the 9,000-plus people with MS in Ireland have reported difficulties in accessing regular physiotherapy services through primary care teams,' said added.
‘People with MS have told us that they can’t get physiotherapy through the HSE and if they do, it’s not for long enough.’
A service user's view
Pascal Stephens from Glasnevin, Dublin, benefits from MS Ireland’s physiotherapy programmes. ‘Physio really is as beneficial as medication. The classes are an excellent use of resources.
'I believe physio classes have played a large part in keeping me mobile and independent. I also love the social aspect too. I am very thankful for them.’
To find out more, visit: https://www.ms-society.ie/news/ms-ireland-launches-campaign-national-physiotherapy-planAuthor: Ian A McMillan