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HRB publish latest physical and sensory disability statistics

28 November 2016

Physiotherapy, occupational therapy and technical aids are what people with physical and sensory disabilities need most to have fuller and more independent lives, according to the latest figures published today (28 November 2016) by the Health Research Board in the Annual Report of the National Physical and Sensory Disability Database Committee 2015.

A total of 22,813 people were registered on the National Physical and Sensory Disability Database (NPSDD)* in 2015. This HRB database captures the services people receive, as well as the services they will need in the next five years.

Infographics summarising the key data are available to download along with the full publication from the HRB website. (See link below.)

Graham Love, Chief Executive of the Health Research Board said,

'Health data, like this, has a crucial role to play in improving health care services. The NPSDD is unique in that it captures data not only on service use and need but on the lived experience of disability and this is a powerful tool to assist with the planning of health services in this area'.

‘Of more than 9,000 people asked about their participation in everyday living, the most commonly experienced difficulties were the emotional effects of their physical/sensory disability'.

Some key findings from the report include:

Demographic profile

(based on 13,710 service users registered or reviewed in the period 2011-2015 inclusive).

  • The majority (9,089, 66.3%) of service users were aged 18 years or over and 33.7% (4,621) were under 18 years at the time of reporting.
  • There were slightly more male service users (7,120, 51.9%), compared with 48.1% (6,590) female.
  • Males were generally younger with the median age of 25.6 years compared with a median age of 40.3 years for female service users.
  • The most frequently reported types of disability were: multiple disabilities (36.9%), neurological disability (28.7%),  physical disability (16.7%), speech/language disability (7.5%), visual disability (5.6%) and hearing loss/deafness (4.6%).
  • More than half the people registered on the NPSDD (63.1%) had a primary carer. In most cases (96.4% of service users with primary carer), the primary carer lived with the service user.  The majority of primary carers were aged between 19 and 49 years (71.0%) and 2.4% were aged over 70 years. 
Current services

Current service use is based on 5,021 service users registered or reviewed in 2015 and may be summarised as follows:

  • 92.8% (4,660 people) received one or more therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation services. The most-frequently used services are physiotherapy, followed by community resource work and occupational therapy.
  • 72.3% (3,628 people) used at least one piece of assistive technology. The most frequently used aids were special furniture and other aids to personal care, followed by aids to mobility. 
  • 56.4% (2,831 people) received one or more day services or activities. The most frequently used services are mainstream primary schools followed by open employment, day activation services and mainstream secondary school. 
  • 28.3% (1,420 people) received one or more personal assistance and support services. The most frequently used services are home help followed by personal assistant and peer support.
  • 12.5% (628 people) availed of one or more planned respite services and 0.7% (34 people) used emergency respite services in the twelve-month period prior to their NPSDD interview. Holiday respite placements and summer camps (day) were the most-frequently used services. 
  • 3.6% (182 people) availed of residential services. The most frequently used services are nursing homes followed by dedicated high supports with nursing care and therapy services.
Future service requirements 2016-2020

Future need for services is recorded as unmet need (those who require assessment or were assessed and are on a waiting list or are unable to avail of a service) and enhanced/alternative service (those who need more of that service or who need an assessment).  Future service use is based on 5,021 service users registered or reviewed in 2015.  

  • 27.8% (1,394 people) required one or more therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation services. The most commonly required services are physiotherapy (539, 10.7%), followed by occupational therapy 367, 7.3%). 
  • 14.0% (701 people) required at least one piece of assistive technology (1,125 aids). The most frequently required aids were aids to hearing (346 items, 30.6%) followed by special furniture and other aids to personal care (264, 23.5%). 
  • 12.7% (636 people) required one or more day service or activity. The most commonly required services are mainstream primary schools (161, 3.2%), followed mainstream secondary school (99, 2.0%). 
  • 7.9% (395 people) required one or more personal assistance and support services. The most-commonly required services are home help (129, 2.6%) followed by personal assistant (128, 2.5%). 
  • 5.7% (285 people) required one or more planned respite service. Holiday respite placements (134, 2.7%) and planned residential respite with high support (48, 1.0%) were the most frequently reported required respite services. 
  • 0.9% (45 people) availed of residential services. The most commonly required services are to live independently in community with high support (9, 0.2%).
Participation in everyday living

The measure of activity and participation (MAP) information is based on the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). It provides a more holistic definition of disability and has the potential to track the impact of service interventions on the participation and functioning experience of people registered on the NPSDD.  It is completed by those aged 16 years and over - 9,083 service users in the period 2011 - 2015.  

Of those: 

  • The majority of people (7,831, 86.2%) reported that the difficulties they experienced ‘interfered with their lives overall’. 
  • The greatest barriers to participation are the physical environment, climate/weather (5,064, 55.8%) and income (3,875, 42.7%). 
  • Socialising was the life area where the greatest number of people experienced restriction in participation (5,345, 58.8 %) followed by shopping (5,190, 57.1%) and sports or physical recreation (4,922, 54.2%).  
  • The emotional effect of disability was the greatest area of difficulty in the 30 days prior to the NPSDD interview with 73.3% (6,655) indicating some difficulty, followed by standing for long periods (6,435, 70.8% and walking long distances (6,317, 69.5%).

The full report is available to download from the 'Publications' section of the HRB website at the link below. The accompanying infographics are also available to download at this link.

* Note: Participation in the NPSDD is voluntary and consent is obtained prior to registration. It is not, therefore, an epidemiological database but captures the service data of those who register. The HSE and a number of non-statutory agencies are responsible for registrations and review of the information. This is then anonymised and sent to the HRB. At the end of each year the HRB takes a snapshot of the information within the database, which forms the national dataset for that year. This information is made available to the Department of Health, the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the agencies involved in the provision of services.

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