I am possibly the least political person you can imagine! I keep an eye on current affairs, I always exercise my right to vote, I generally take time to understand the issues but I have never before written to my local TD (MP) nor have I ever engaged an election canvasser on my doorstep to any sort of debate on any topic.
But this year, things have changed! In Ireland we have an election on Feb 26th and so this is our chance to shout out loudly, to insist on answers, to make our voices heard; to demand a change! (Apologies to my UK readers – but you will have your General Election in another few months, so this isn’t entirely irrelevant!)
For some reason, dermatology has been put on the back burner in Ireland for many years. In a country where over 73,000 people suffer from psoriasis, it is utterly shocking that there are still patients who have to wait between 12 to 18 months to see a dermatologist. I regularly receive correspondence from fellow sufferers in Ireland telling me that they are struggling to get a dermatology appointment … that they cannot afford the €144 drugs payment each month and so are staggering their medications to last for three months instead … that their GPs don’t have the correct dermatology training to help them.
Our needs are threefold;
- MORE DERMATOLOGISTS - To bring us into line with the UK and Northern Ireland, we need to employ at least another 18 dermatologists so that the ratio of one dermatology consultant to 80,000 patients can be reached. We currently have a ratio of one dermatology consultant to 150,000 patients and it is not working
- MEDICAL CARDS /LTI CARDS - In May 2014, the World Health Organisation recognized psoriasis “as a chronic, non-communicable, painful, disfiguring, and disabling disease for which there is no cure. The pain, itching and bleeding caused by psoriasis leads to social and work-related stigma and discrimination.” I have heard the outgoing Minster for Health, Leo Varadkar make pronouncements on medical cards for those with chronic conditions … will this include patients of psoriasis who need monthly systemic medications in order to live as normal a life as possible?
- LOCAL DERMATOLOGY SERVICES - Over half of the Irish population experience a skin condition each year, resulting in 6-10 million GP consultations. Dermatology also has the fourth longest waiting list with 29,500 patients waiting to be seen and average waiting time of 12-18 months. It is clear that we need better dermatology services in each locality. This means more GP education, trained dermatology nurses, access to phototherapy and as mentioned before, many, many more dermatology consultants.
I am in the happy and lucky position of living close to a hospital that has a fantastic dermatology clinic with wonderful staff who work tirelessly to help all patients with skin disesase. But I know that they are under extraordinary pressure. I know that there are thousands of patients who don’t have access to any care. In 2016, this is just not acceptable! Here on the blog, I keep telling people that there is no need to suffer with psoriasis anymore … that there are many options and many treatments which will enable psoriasis patients to live normal lives. But if the dermatology services aren’t available to service these needs, then what are these patients to do?
If you are a fellow Irish psoriasis patient, please join me and the newly formed Psoriasis Council of the Irish Skin Foundation, in our call to arms! Tackle your local candidates. Demand answers. Send letters and emails. Leave comments on social media. We have a two week window to try and make a change.