Three former members of the Tamworth Parkinson’s Disease Support Group believe that a full-time nurse based in Tamworth would not only take pressure off the local health system, but also save taxpayer dollars.
Trish Betts, John Crosby and his wife, Ann, recently stepped down from their roles in the support group to throw all their weight behind the push for a full time Specialist Neurological Nurse (SNN) in Tamworth.
The move followed the news that the visiting Parkinson’s nurse would not be able to continue her quarterly two-day clinics in Tamworth as her workload was already overstretched in the Newcastle area – where the role is based.
An SNN nurse would not just service Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients and carers, but also patients and carers of people with motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and all other neurological-based diseases.
“We see an immediate need for a full-time nurse, and if we combine all the groups of neurological diseases in the region there would be plenty of efficiencies and savings that could be made,” Mr Crosby said.
The group are currently putting “feelers out for more support”, and point to cost-benefit findings from similar positions in the United Kingdom. An analysis from the 2015 Deloitte Access Economics report found that the total economic cost of PD in 2014 was over $9.9 billion, representing an increase of $3.2 billion, or 46 per cent in 10 years.
“Increasingly, research in the UK has indicated potential benefits associated with provision of specialist services through a PDNS (specialist nurse),” the report read.
“The benefits found in the UK – such as reductions in unplanned hospital admissions and the number of bed days in hospitals – can potentially be achieved in Australia.”
The Tamworth group believes the nurse would also ease some pressure on the local GPs, as well as the two neurologists based in Tamworth, whose current wait lists “ are about twelve months.”
The 2010 NSW Shoalhaven Project also pointed to UK figures which showed that a single specialist nurse saved between $28,618 and $189,754 per year by reducing the number of medical appointments patients needed to attend. Each year, the nurse also saved about $133,755 in reduced unplanned hospital admissions, and up to $314,107 in reducing the number of days PD patients spent in hospital.
“The nature of the diseases mean that a lot of patients can’t travel to Newcastle or Sydney,” Mr Crosby said. “The nurse would have to be able to service the whole North West, and would take a lot of pressure off the system.”