Croí welcomes measures in Budget 2023 to improve diagnostic services for heart valve patients

Cardiac and stroke charity calls for urgent workforce planning to be included to make the investment worthwhile

Photographed outside Leinster House at the report launch (L-R) are Neil Johnson, Croí Chief Executive; Paul Nolan, Clinical Lecturer at ATU Sligo; Sharon Donohue, Cardiac Faculty Chair of the Irish Institute of Clinical Measurement Science (IICMS) and Prof Jim Crowley, Consultant Cardiologist and Croí Medical Director

Galway, 27 September 2022: Following the announcement of Budget 2023 today, Croí, the cardiac and stroke foundation, has welcomed measures that will improve access to diagnostic services, such as echocardiography, for patients with structural heart conditions, including heart valve disease. The announcement comes following a Croí report which highlighted inequalities in the availability of echocardiography services and made clear and achievable recommendations to improve access.

The report published by Croí earlier this month also outlined the need to meet additional demand through recruitment, training, and upskilling of the workforce. Specifically, a structured postgraduate programme in echocardiography aimed at the 35% of cardiac physiologists not yet trained in this important test.

In a positive move, the Government has allocated €47 million to facilitate GPs in accessing diagnostic tests, with major implications for access to radiology tests as well as up to 266,500 tests across areas such as echocardiography, spirometry and natriuretic peptide blood tests. The current budget estimates do not include provision for workforce planning, however, which will make it more challenging to achieve the best outcome from the funding allocated by the Department of Health.

The charity launched the report, based on data from the National Survey on Echocardiography Services, in Leinster House to an audience of TDs, Senators and political staff. The report highlighted enormous disparities in terms of access to echocardiography services for public and private patients, and recommended GP direct access, via resourced community diagnostics, as a means to address them, reduce waiting times and lower the burden on hospital services.

Responding to the announcement, Paul Nolan, Clinical Lecturer at ATU Sligo said: “Allocated funding for GP direct access to Echocardiography is very welcome, but to be successful, proactive workforce planning and development needs to be undertaken urgently. Given the current prolonged waiting times for this vital test, reduction of those wait times and provision of direct GP access can only be met by addressing the workforce deficiencies outlined.

Neil Johnson, Croí Chief Executive responded: Croí believes that all patients requiring echocardiography services should have equitable and timely access. Our report provided an evidence base to uphold our values and advocate for them, for the benefit of heart patients. We wish to thank Minister Donnelly for taking on board our recommendations, and also his Oireachtas colleagues who listened so intently to our presentation the week before last. We will continue to work constructively with both the Department of Health, the Department of Further and Higher Education, and their respective Oireachtas committees to deliver the best outcomes for heart and stroke patients.

 

To read the report, please visit www.croi.ie/echosurvey