Written Answers. - Speech Therapy Service.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

391 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals he has to use the services of speech therapists practising in the private sector to deal with the waiting lists for assessment of children needing speech therapy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8103/01]

Arrangements for the provision of speech and language therapy services are a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards.

However, I am aware that, while there has been a significant level of investment in recent years in health related support services, including speech and language therapy services, for both pre-school and children of school going age with intellectual disability, autism, physical and sensory disabilities, the health boards and non-statu tory agencies are experiencing difficulties in both recruiting and retaining the allied health professionals required to deliver these services. In acknowledgement of these difficulties, my Department has asked the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards to take a flexible approach in using the resources which have been allocated to the services, including the possibility of the purchase of additional sessions, with a view to facilitating as many children as possible to access the necessary support services.
My Department has also engaged Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates to undertake a workforce planning study to report on the prospective supply and demand for a number of therapy grades, including speech and language therapists and I am expecting their final report shortly.