I sincerely regret that children can experience a long waiting time for treatment for scoliosis, and I am conscious of the burden that this places on them and their families.
The long-term strategy to develop sustainable scoliosis services from 2018 and into 2019 is a priority for my Department and for the HSE. Children's Health Ireland (CHI) advise that the impact of investment and the implementation of the Scoliosis 10 Point Action Plan is now starting to deliver results with a consistent reduction in waiting times being recorded.
CHI also advise that the total number of surgeries performed in 2018 was 418 compared with 371 in 2017. This represents an increase in activity of 12% against 2017 and an increase in activity of 87% compared to 2016 when 224 procedures were carried out.
Furthermore, the total number of patients on the waiting list for scoliosis related surgeries as of 29 March 2019 is 174, including suspensions. This is a reduction of 61 or 26% compared to the same period last year when 235 patients were on the total spinal waiting list (including suspensions).
More broadly, all patient referrals to the orthopaedic spinal service at CHI are reviewed and clinically prioritised by a consultant. These patients are seen in order of clinical priority. Most patients are seen within 12 months.
An additional 800 outpatient orthopaedic appointments were given to patients in CHI at Crumlin in 2018 compared to 2017 which led to a 31% reduction in the overall orthopaedic outpatient waiting list.
My Department is working closely with CHI with the aim of supporting the further development of a sustainable scoliosis service and ensuring that the on-going demand for services is met.
In relation to the Deputy’s request for a specific breakdown of the number of patients waiting for spinal fusion and spinal other procedures, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy.