The warning follows news the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland is treating increasing numbers of PPS patients born overseas. The NHS may face a double whammy of thousands returning to the UK no longer able to source free healthcare abroad – the so called ‘Brexpats’ – coupled with European Union nationals looking to cross the border, before it closes.
The HSE is reporting three new patients a month presenting with PPS, (800 patients in last 23 years) with 70 percent born outside Ireland swelling the increasing 7,000 Polio survivor numbers in Eire. This, despite 28,000 non-EU citizens refused entry between 2008 and 2016 – the second lowest rate of granting asylum in Europe. UK new PPS cases are expected to increase, with Brexit providing a whole new potential incentive to move to the UK for the health benefits. In June 2016, numbers of expats wishing to move back to the UK increased by 108 percent, from Spain alone, and some of those may well have PPS.
“As one of the 120,000 people in the UK living with PPS, I know awareness is low amongst the medical profession, but that might have to change if Ireland is anything to go by and we see an influx of new PPS cases pre-Brexit,” said British Polio Fellowship National Chairman, David Mitchell. “It is clearly in all our interests not to be complacent on this issue, and if Eire is seeing so many cases, it is almost inconceivable the UK will not see the same numbers of new cases or more; The British Polio Fellowship stands ready to help.”
The British Polio Fellowship has strengthened its Support Services arm in recent years, doing a great deal of work helping members navigate the complexity of PIP applications and supporting others appeal, the charity is ready to help people arriving in the UK with PPS and help the medical profession understand their needs. “There is no cure for PPS. However, if handled correctly, the effects of the condition can be managed, which can save the NHS much needed time and resources to deploy elsewhere,” added David. “However, as many of our members continue to report difficulties sourcing early diagnosis, good orthotics and a range of other health services, we are concerned about how the medical profession might cope with an unexpected increase in new PPS patients,” concluded David.