Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Questions (121)

Heather Humphreys

Question:

121. Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Health if he will consider lifting the moratorium on recruitment within the Health Service Executive in order to address the severe waiting times for orthodontic treatment; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that young children classed as high priority are having to wait three to four years for treatment; the findings of the independent review of orthodontic services; the number of children currently on a waiting list for orthodontic treatment in each region; his views on whether urgent action is required to address this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14699/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government has decided that the numbers employed across the public service must be reduced in order to meet fiscal and budgetary targets. In order to mitigate the impact on frontline services of the reduction in employment numbers, the priority is to reform how health services are delivered in order to ensure a more productive and cost effective health system. The revised working arrangements provided for in the Haddington Road Agreement are a pivotal element in this regard. Subject to approval by senior managers, arrangements are in place in the HSE to allow the recruitment of staff where it has been established that there is an urgent service requirement. In addition, the HSE continues to fill a significant number of development posts in line with service priorities identified by Government.

The HSE is aware of the need to address orthodontic waiting times and commissioned an independent national review of orthodontic services to give guidance as to what changes will be desirable. The review has now been completed. The key issue highlighted by the review, which has assessed services nationally, is that the Orthodontic Service should be fully integrated within the Primary Care Service. This is under consideration by the HSE to be implemented as part of the HSE's Transformation Programme. Pilot schemes, which will involve the use of orthodontic therapists, are currently being introduced. It is expected that these changes will have a positive impact on waiting times.

The HSE provides orthodontic treatment to those who have been assessed and referred for treatment before their 16th birthday. It should be noted that the nature of orthodontic care means that immediate treatment is not always desirable. It is estimated that in up to 5% of cases it is necessary to wait for further growth to take place before treatment commences. Information on waiting times is collated by the HSE by region and for the intervals is shown as follows. The most recent information relates to the last quarter of 2013.

Waiting time from assessment to commencement of treatment

1 - 6 months

7 - 12 months

13 - 24 months

2 - 3 years

Over 4 years

TOTAL

HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster

823

723

1,056

973

178

3,753

HSE West

1,337

936

1,658

924

122

4,977

HSE South

620

516

829

1,056

373

3,394

HSE Dublin North East

440

783

855

842

496

3,416