Growing demand for Independent Advocacy in Ireland highlighted in National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities (NAS) and Patient Advocacy Service Annual Reports for 2022.
In 2022, the National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities (NAS) saw its waiting list grow 55% from 161 in January 2022 to 250 by December 2022. This figure has continued to grow in 2023 with numbers increasing to 262 by June 2023.
NAS provided advocacy support in 3,576 pieces of work, which is an almost 50% increase in the services casework since 2015. Despite this NAS has not received an increase in funding for any new permanent posts since 2011.
2022 saw a continued growing demand for the Patient Advocacy Service with 1,859 contacts, which represents a 54% increase compared to 2021.
Also in 2022, the Patient Advocacy Service extended its remit to people living in Private Nursing Homes, providing patient advocacy to patients and residents in all Public Acute Hospitals & Nursing Homes.
Highlighted above are some of the key findings from the Annual Reports for NAS and the Patient Advocacy Service published today.
The report presents the key activities, statistics, and achievements of the Services in 2022.
In 2022, NAS provided advocacy support to people with disabilities in 3,576 issues, with over a 50% increase in the number of cases having between 2-7 advocacy issues compared to 2021. Cases with more than one issue can be particularly complex as NAS advocates may have to coordinate communication with many stakeholders and agencies that have become involved in a person’s life. Overall, NAS has seen a 50% increase in the services case work since 2015.
NAS continues to operate under significant pressure and there was a large demand across the country for advocacy services. In 2022 the NAS waiting list has grown from 161 to 250, and in 2023 it currently stands at 262. Despite this growth in demand which is likely to accelerate further, NAS has not received funding for any new permanent posts since 2011.
Three of the largest reported issues facing people seeking Advocacy support from NAS in 2022 included access to housing, issues they faced in residential or healthcare settings and problems associated with their ability to make decisions for themselves.
Joanne Condon, National Manager for NAS said:
“2022 continued the trend of a growing demand for advocacy services in Ireland. We have seen a substantial increase in our waiting lists and this demonstrates a clear need for increased funding for advocacy services for people with disabilities. Many of the people on NAS waiting lists are experiencing active human rights violations and need the support of an Advocate to ensure they have an active role in determining what happens in their lives. They must be able to access advocacy support at the time they need it most.
Advocacy is about supporting and empowering people to communicate their wishes, secure their human rights, represent their interests, and have their voice, will and preference heard. Never before has Advocacy been so to the forefront in an Irish Context with recent commencement of the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act, a focus on human rights in the UNCRPD and a shift to a human rights-based approach in health and social care practice. It is therefore reassuring to see the growing demand for Independent Advocates.”
In 2022, the Patient Advocacy Service provided advocacy in 1,859 enquiries, covering a total of 6,101 separate complaint issues. This represents a remarkable 54% increase in contacts compared to the previous year. Communication issues were highlighted in the top five issues raised by people we support, including, anxieties acknowledged but not addressed, visiting unavailable, questions acknowledged not responded to, staff not communicating care plans and staff speaking in a condescending manner.
In November 2022, the Patient Advocacy Service extended its remit to people living in Private Nursing Homes, reinforcing its commitment to providing complaints advocacy to patients and residents in all Public Acute Hospitals & Nursing Homes. Furthermore, the Patient Advocacy Service continued to receive enquiries related to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as restrictions and disruptions disproportionately affected the delivery of healthcare services throughout the country.
In 2022, the National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities (NAS), was awarded a contract extension by the National Patient Safety Office in the Department of Health (DoH) to deliver the Patient Advocacy Service for the next five years. This renewal ensures that the service will remain available and accessible to individuals in need from October 2022 to October 2027, offering them the necessary support during challenging times.
As part of its expansion, the Patient Advocacy Service now operates from offices located in Dublin, Cork, and Galway. This geographical distribution allows for improved accessibility and proximity to individuals seeking support.
Georgina Cruise, National Manager of the Patient Advocacy Service, said:
“The Patient Advocacy Service is going through a period of sustained growth – as demonstrated by the growing demand highlighted in the report. Patient Advocacy is an important element in the delivery of a modern Healthcare system and the Patient Advocacy Service is an integral part of delivering this in Ireland. The extension of our remit to private nursing homes demonstrates our continuing growth and we will continue to focus on developing the organisation to sustain this growth into the future.”
The Annual Report for NAS can be found here: https://advocacy.ie/app/uploads/2023/07/NAS-Annual-Report-2022.pdf
The Annual Report for the Patient Advocacy Service can be found here: https://www.patientadvocacyservice.ie/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/Patient-Advocacy-Service-Annual-Report-2022.pdf