Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein publishes bill to reform Long Term Illness scheme

The bill would make the it mandatory that the scheme is reviewed within a year of the legislation

(Peter Byrne/PA)
(Peter Byrne/PA)

Sinn Fein has published a bill to reform the Long Term Illness scheme.

The party’s health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly says the aim of the bill is to ensure that the health service is kept updated on the effectiveness of the provision of medicines or surgical appliances to people suffering from a disability or long term disease.

The bill would make it mandatory that the scheme is reviewed within a year of the legislation, and every three years thereafter.

There has not been an addition to the current scheme since 1970, and Ms O’Reilly says people across Ireland with conditions like fibromyalgia are suffering due to the historic legislation.

“It’s a real barrier for people accessing medicines, appliances and indeed even diagnostics, so we want to see the scheme reviewed so it’s fit for purpose,” she said.

“It’s a good scheme, but people can’t get into it, they can’t get access to it, so we want that review compulsory.”

Sinn Fein believes that the bill could have cross-party support, as TDs have already indicated their difficulties with the current long term illness scheme.

“I would be very surprised if we don’t get cross-party support, even from some on the government benches, we all have constituencies, they all have clinics the same as I do, people come in and out and tell us about this and there’s a very real need there,” she said.

“I’d urge people from all parties and none to support it, it’s a simple piece of legislation but it will be very effective if it’s fully implemented.”

The legislation itself only mandates a review on publication of the report, which Sinn Fein says will not require additional funding, as those denied access to the scheme are already using HSE services.

“A lot of people who cannot access the scheme already find themselves in a situation where they are already accessing the medicines required and doing it via different avenues – what the scheme does is bring all that together,” Ms O’Reilly added.

“Having said that, if there is a real need there, if there are conditions that are appropriate that aren’t being recognised in the long term illness scheme, I do think it appropriate they be included.

“I’ve constituents come to me, and another TDs have too, telling them that it’s not fit for purpose, and needs updated – this just makes that mandatory.”

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