Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (156, 157)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

156 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children who are awaiting orthodontic treatment and assessment in each of the health board areas; and the waiting time for assessment and treatment in respect of each health board area. [4498/04]

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Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

157 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the enormous concerns on the part of thousands of parents and their children who are unable to access urgently required orthodontic treatment; and his proposals at this stage to improve the availability of the service. [4499/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 157 together.

The provision of orthodontic services is a matter for the health boards. I have taken a number of measures to improve services on a national basis.

The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003 my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for the grade at training programmes in Ireland and three separate universities in the United Kingdom. The 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists that commenced their training in 2001. There is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. These measures will compliment the structural changes being introduced in the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist.

My Department's commitment to training development is manifested in the funding provided to the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. The appointment will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The Southern Health Board's CEO reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003. In recognition of the importance of the post at the Cork Dental School my Department approved, in principle, a proposal from the school to substantially improve its training facilities for orthodontics. The project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities. Ultimately, it will support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

Under an orthodontic initiative a sum of €4.698 million was provided to the health boards and authority in 2001. It enabled health boards to recruit additional staff, engage the services of private specialist orthodontic practitioners to treat patients and build additional orthodontic facilities.

In June 2002 my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. It enabled boards to provide additional sessions for existing staff and to purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners.

The CEOs of the health boards and authority have informed me of the following information about their waiting lists for December 2003:

Assessment Waiting List

Treatment Waiting List

Average Waiting Time (months)

Category A

Average Waiting Time (months)

Category B

Average Waiting Time (months)

SWAHB

291

3 — 6

644

< 10

474

< 12

ECAHB

100

1 — 3

52

< 6

148

< 24

NAHB

179

3 — 6

45

< 12

2,220

< 24

MHB

287

4

Nil

No waiting time

210

12

MWHB

2,432

24 — 36

Nil

No waiting time

642

24 — 36

NEHB

Nil

No waiting time

9

1.5 — 2

278

12 — 18

NWHB

990

5

156

7

638

28

SEHB

283

3 — 3.5

Nil

No waiting time

644

17

SHB

4,034(12 years or older)

According to date of birth (currently 1990)

Nil

No waiting time

3,301

42

WHB

654

10

Nil

No waiting time

759

38

The CEOs have also informed me that at the end of the December quarter 2003 there were 21,295 children receiving orthodontic treatment from the public orthodontic service. This means that there are over twice as many children getting orthodontic treatment as there are children waiting to be treated. An extra 4,000 children have received treatment from the health boards since the end of 2001.