Neurological patients in Letterkenny and the surrounding regions are enduring pain and financial strain from travelling up to 112km to see a neurologist.

The disadvantages faced by Donegal patients were highlighted during today’s launch of the Neurological Alliance of Ireland’s campaign for a properly resourced outpatient consultant neurology service at Letterkenny University Hospital.

The NAI says that the current visiting service from Sligo hospital twice a month is “completely inadequate to meet the need”, leading to increasing waiting times for patients to be seen in Letterkenny and forcing them to travel to hospitals in Sligo and even Galway.

Patients like Elaine Coll, from Letterkenny, who has been living with MS for 17 years, could have up to three appointments in a month, all in different places.

Elaine has to travel between five different hospitals – Letterkenny, Sligo, Manorhamilton, and two in Dublin – for medical appointments.

She said: “My husband drives me to my appointments, as public transport isn’t an option due to my mobility, taking annual leave from his work. The cost of travelling long distances regularly for appointments places huge financial strain on patients and their families. The fatigue from travelling, treatment and the appointment can knock you for days after.

“If I was able to see a consultant neurologist in Letterkenny University Hospital, it would lessen the excessive amount of travelling I do and ensure I was getting the care I need closer to home.”

MS patient Elaine Coll from Letterkenny

Elaine continued: “People living with neurological conditions feel invisible, we’re being denied our basic right to access to healthcare. One in three people will be affected by a neurological condition which is why it’s so important that we can access the healthcare we need within a reasonable distance to our homes.  Having access to consultant neurology services would hugely benefit the lives of people living with neurological conditions in Donegal. The decisions our Government makes will have lifelong implications for people living with neurological conditions, that’s why we need them to act now.”

The regional campaign was launched at an online briefing on today for elected representatives from Letterkenny. Speakers at the launch included patient representative Elaine Coll; Laura Hardaker, a person living with epilepsy from Bundoran, Co. Donegal; Magdalen Rogers, Executive Director, Neurological Alliance of Ireland; and Dr Siobhan Kelly, Consultant Neurologist, Sligo University Hospital.

Magdalen Rogers, NAI Executive Director, said: “Access to a consultant neurologist should not depend on where you live, yet people with chronic long-term neurological conditions are regularly travelling between 60-112km to see their neurologist. We know that patients travelling long distances for treatment suffer poorer outcomes, from delays in diagnosis to living with debilitating symptoms.

“Providing consultant neurology outpatient services in Letterkenny University Hospital and regional hospitals across Ireland will not only have a positive impact on a patient’s overall health, but it reduces unnecessary admissions, reduces length of stay and unnecessary tests. Early access to diagnosis and treatment means that we can prevent disability, reduce complications and provide better quality of life for those living with neurological conditions.”