Written Answers. - Speech Therapy Service.

Enda Kenny

Question:

407 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the numbers of speech therapists and physiotherapists currently operating a service to his Department; the projected requirement over the next ten years; the numbers currently being trained in this regard; if his Department employs professional staff from the private sector when unable to supply a service itself; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24240/00]

According to the census figures available to me, there are 345 whole-time equivalent speech and language therapists and 679 whole-time equivalent physiotherapists employed in the health ser vice. I am aware of the difficulties that employers are facing in recruiting these therapists, and I have engaged Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates to undertake a workforce planning study for the three therapy professions, that is, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy. This study will examine the period from 2000 to 2015 and estimate the number of therapists that will be required to meet service needs. The results of this study will be available next month and my Department will then begin discussions with the Department of Education and Science and the Higher Education Authority to plan for the anticipated increased number of training places.

As an interim measure, I asked my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, to investigate increasing the number of training places in both speech and language therapy and physiotherapy from October 2000. An additional three places were secured in speech and langauge therapy, bringing the total number in training to 107. An additional 52 places in physiotherapy were secured, bringing the total in training to 312 the total number in training in physiotherapy.

It is a matter for the chief executive officer of each agency to decide how best to meet service needs. It may be decided to use the service of private therapists, and I have agreed a rate of pay for the employment of such services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

408 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of physiotherapy service available to children attending three special schools (details supplied) in Castlebar, County Mayo; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the numbers requiring physiotherapy in these centres make it impossible for one physiotherapist to physically give an optimum service; the plans he has to improve this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24242/00]

Enda Kenny

Question:

498 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the level of speech therapy services available at three special school centres (details supplied) in Castlebar, County Mayo; if a programme of speech therapy assistance and training is available in respect of each child requiring such a programme at those centres; if he will provide the necessary resources to see that this demand is met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24225/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 408 and 498 together.

The provision of health related support services, including speech and language therapy and physiotherapy services, is the responsibility of the relevant health board. Accordingly, the Deputy's questions have been referred to the chief executive officer of the Western Health Board, with a request that she examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.
I should point out that the recruitment of allied health professional staff generally is presenting problems throughout the health board regions and it is clear that the demand for the three therapy grades, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language therapy needs to be reviewed. Following a Labour Court recommendation in 1997, an expert group was established to examine and report on various issues relating to the allied health professional grades, including speech and language therapists. Among the issues examined by this group were the problems which arise in relation to the recruitment and the retention of various grades. The expert group submitted its final report in April 2000 and I am implementing in full the recommendations of this report at a cost of £10 million. Among its recommendations was the urgent commissioning of a workforce planning study for the three therapy grades, that is, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language therapy. The terms of reference for the workforce planning study for the three therapy professions have been agreed and the study commissioned. This study will report by the end of this year. In the context of this report, a large expansion in the area of training for these therapists, in both the numbers of graduates produced and the number of training colleges established, will be examined in partnership with the education authorities.
I am also very pleased to announce that, in co-operation with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Woods, I have secured a total of 52 extra places for the training of physiotherapists, five additional places for the training of occupational therapists and three in the area of speech and language therapy, all available from October 2000.
The Higher Education Authority is also establishing a group comprised of representatives from each of the three physiotherapy schools to investigate the establishment of a fast-track physiotherapy programme to begin in each school from October 2001. The first graduates from these programmes should be available in 2003.
The possibility of establishing a similar course for occupational therapy and speech and language therapy will also be investigated.
Question No. 409 taken with Question No. 115.

Enda Kenny

Question:

410 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children whether up to 180 pupils at Holy Angels School, Chapelizod, Dublin 20, require the services of a speech and language therapist; the reason no speech and language therapist attends at this school; when these services were last available; when the service will be resumed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24730/00]

The provision of speech and language therapy services to schoolchildren in the Dublin area is the responsibility of the Eastern Regional Health Authority in the first instance. I have forwarded the Deputy's inquiry to the regional chief executive of the authority for investigation and direct reply to him.

Enda Kenny

Question:

411 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of speech and language therapists available to his Department; the numbers projected to be required for the next five years; the numbers currently undergoing training; the salary scales available to speech and language therapists in the public sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24731/00]

According to the census figures available to me, there are 345 whole-time equivalent speech and language therapists employed in the health service. I am aware of the difficulties employers are facing in recruiting such therapists, and I have engaged Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates to undertake a workforce planning study for the three therapy professions, that is, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy. This study will look at the period from 2000 to 2015 and estimate the number of therapists that will be required to meet service needs. The results of this study will be available next month, and my Department will then begin discussions with the Department of Education and Science and the Higher Education Authority to plan for the anticipated increased number of training places.

As an interim measure, I asked my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science to investigate increasing the number of training places in speech and language therapy from October 2000. An additional three places were secured, which brings to 107 the number undergoing training at the moment.

The salary scale for speech and language therapists is from £20,118 to £26,274, with a long service increment after three years at the maximum of the scale, bringing the scale to £26,801. On promotion to senior therapist, a therapist's salary rises by £4,200 and on promotion to manager, by a further £4,200.