On 8th August 2018, the Government published the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy: its ten-year vision to transform Ireland’s health and social care services.

According to the Department of Health, the four overarching goals of the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy are to:

  1. Deliver sustainable reform through focus on implementation and engagement
  2. Provide high quality, accessible and safe care that meets the needs of the population
  3. Ensure the health service is financially sustainable
  4. Enable the system to deliver its goals

These goals are underpinned with ten Strategic Actions, which in turn have their own key actions and milestones.

Goal 2 of the implementation strategy confirms that implementation of the national neuro-rehabilitation strategy will begin in 2018.

What is the national neuro-rehabilitation strategy?

The report of the working group on the development of a national policy and strategy for the provision of neuro-rehabilitation services was published on 16th December 2011 by the Department of Health entitled National Policy and Strategy for the Provision of Neuro-Rehabilitation Services in Ireland 2011 – 2015. 

A Rehabilitation Medicine Programme was established, the three main objectives of which were to improve the quality of care; improve access to services and improve cost effectiveness.

The HSE gave a commitment to work with the Rehabilitation Medicine Programme to support the development of an implementation plan based on the recommendations of the National Policy and Strategy for the Provision of Neuro-Rehabilitation Services.

The focus for service development in the first 3 years of the policy and strategy was said to be on:

  • Network development
  • Integration of services
  • Development of protocols that would have mandatory compliance across the delivery system
  • Reconfiguration of existing resources
  • Achieving greater cost-effectiveness through the development of greater competencies by those tasked with delivering services
  • Increased teamwork and using interdisciplinary approaches
  • Realistic goals, aspirations, attainments
  • More interagency collaborative working

Almost seven years later, the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy confirms that implementation of the National Neuro-rehabilitation Strategy in accordance with agreed implementation plan will begin in 2018.

The publication of the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy has been welcomed by a number of organisations, including Acquired Brain Injury Ireland. CEO of ABI Ireland, Barbara O’Connell, in welcoming the strategy, noted that “our own experts worked on the neuro-rehabilitation strategy to help design clearer pathways in our health system. These new pathways will allow people with brain injuries to move through health services more easily as they progress with their recovery and rehabilitation.”

Ms O’Connell said:

With 13,000 new traumatic brain injuries in Ireland every year and between 8,000-10,000 strokes occurring annually, timely access to neuro-rehabilitation is crucial. As Sláintecare is implemented, we look forward to greater investment in community rehabilitation for people affected by brain injury to ensure the best chance of recovery to help them back to independent living.

Clearer pathways for brain injury survivors as outlined in the neuro-rehabilitation strategy will ensure they move through relevant services in a timely fashion. Currently too many cases are stuck on the pathway or placed inappropriately in settings like nursing homes which stops any recovery. We are heartened to hear the priorities for Sláintecare which means people will be able to access care when they need it.