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Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Page: 7520

Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (19:19): I rise to speak about an important report that was released recently titled Living with Parkinson's disease: an updated economic analysis. As the Deputy Convenor of the Parliamentary Friends of Parkinson's Group—with the convenor, Ms Ann Sudmalis—I was fortunate enough to attend the briefing on the findings of this report by Deloitte Access Economics.

In 2007, Parkinson's Australia commissioned Access Economics to produce an economic report, Living with Parkinson's disease: challenges and positive steps for the future. This report was updated in 2011 and reviewed and updated this year. All these reports highlight the significant growth in both the number of people living with Parkinson's disease and health system costs, productivity and other losses.

The 2015 report found that there are nearly 70,000 people—or one in every 340 people—living with Parkinson's in Australia. The report explains that Parkinson's disease is a chronic, progressive, incurable, complex and disabling neurological condition. It is a surprisingly prevalent condition. On average, 32 new cases are diagnosed every day. There are likely to be nearly 12,000 new cases diagnosed this year. Of the nearly 70,000 Australians living with Parkinson's, nearly one in five are of working age. The number of people with this condition is expected to continue to grow in the coming years because of our ageing population.

While 82 per cent of people living with Parkinson's are aged over 65, people as young as 30 years of age can be diagnosed. The median time from onset to death is 12.4 years, though many people living with Parkinson's do live with the disease for well over 20 years. In 2014, there were an estimated 1,743 deaths from Parkinson's disease in Australia.

As well as the huge personal and human costs associated with this disease, the report highlighted the very real economic costs

The total financial cost of Parkinson's disease in 2014 was almost $1.1 billion. This is more than double the cost of $527 million in 2005. According to the report, individuals bore 17 per cent of these costs; governments, 57 per cent of the costs; employers, three per cent; and the rest of the community, 24 per cent. For someone living with Parkinson's for 12 years, the average lifetime financial cost is around $161,000. This is on par with the average lifetime financial cost of cancer of $145,000. People living with Parkinson's are more than five times more likely to be in residential aged-care facilities than the general population. The total economic cost of Parkinson's last year was nearly $10 billion. This is an increase of 46 per cent, or $3.2 billion, since 2005.

This will only increase unless Parkinson's is made the focus of national action. The report found that there are cost-effective interventions that can help people living with Parkinson's to achieve a higher quality of life while at the same time reducing the cost to the community of this condition.

When I attended the briefing by Parkinson's Australia, I was able to catch up with the President of Parkinson's Tasmania, Helen Connor-Kendray, a tireless advocate for people living with Parkinson's in my home state. Helen spoke to me about the importance of people with Parkinson's having access to specialist nurses. This is also highlighted in the report, which says research has shown the potential benefits associated with the availability of specialist Parkinson's services. Importantly, the report said:

Patients have improved health outcomes and their carers report less emotional strain.

The benefits are found in Tasmania, where there are three specialist Parkinson's nurses, one in each of the regions, but they have a heavy workload. Regrettably, some people wanting the help and advice of these Parkinson's nurses can wait between six and eight weeks for an appointment.

This is not good enough. We must do more to help people living with Parkinson's disease. More people are being diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's, and we must ensure they receive age-appropriate support. This includes ensuring they have a smooth transition from the NDIS into residential care.

I commend Parkinson's Australia for commissioning this report and for all the work they do to support and advocate for all people affected by Parkinson's— (Time expired)