The provision of dental and optical services and the monitoring and upkeep of the waiting lists is the statutory responsibility of the health boards. The information relating to the number of children who have availed of dental and optical treatment in each health board region is not readily available in my Department. I have asked the chief executive officers of the boards to investigate the position in relation to the points raised in the Deputy's question and to reply directly to her as a matter of urgency.
Dental treatment services for children in national schools are being developed in accordance with the dental health action plan. In recent years health boards have been progressively adopting a planned targeted approach to the delivery of dental services to national school children and phasing out a demand led system. This is to ensure the optimum use of dental resources and equal access for all national school children to the same level of dental care. Children are screened in second, fourth and sixth classes and follow-up appointments for examination, treatment or orthodontic review are made, as necessary, with the dental surgeon in the clinic designated for the particular school(s). Children are eligible for dental treatment up to their sixteenth birthday.
As regards the provision of optical treatment the position is that vision screening is part of the child health services which health boards are required to provide for children in national schools under section 66 of the Health Act, 1970. The health board chief executive officers have been asked to consider the need for vision screening for children in the 12 to 16 years age group.