Written Answers. - Orthodontic Services.

Question:

543 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the waiting time in the Dublin area for children who require orthodontic care; the plans, if any, he has to increase the number of orthodontists in the public health system in order to reduce waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1257/99]

The Dental Health Action Plan provides for the development by each health board of a consultant-led orthodontic service. A consultant led service ensures a service of high quality and high service levels.

Because of the high cost of fixed appliance orthodontic therapy, health boards can only provide this treatment where a child has a handicapping orthodontic condition. Children are assessed therefore, in accordance with guidelines drawn up by my Department to ensure that resources are used to best advantage and for those most affected or handicapped.

The provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in the Dublin area is the statutory responsibility of the Eastern Health Board.

I have had inquiries made of the Eastern Health Board. I understand there is no waiting list for orthodontic treatment for children in Categories I and II. All Category I patients, the category of greatest need, are assessed and treated immediately. A treatment programme for Category II patients is put in place immediately following assessment. The waiting time for assessment for Category II patients is three years and ten months.

At the suggestion of my Department, an orthodontic review group was set up by the health boards to prepare a report and make recommendations on the orthodontic services. The objective of this review is to ensure equity in the provision of orthodontic treatment throughout the health boards having regard to the additional resources provided to health boards over the past few years under the Dental Health Action Plan.

I understand that this group has recently made its report to the chief executive officers of the health boards and is now under consideration by them.