Written Answers. - Speech Therapy.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

59 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Health the number of speech therapists available through his Department and the health boards; his views on whether the number is adequate; and the proposals, if any, he has in this regard. [448/94]

Brendan McGahon

Ceist:

128 Mr. McGahon asked the Minister for Health the proposals, if any, he has for the improvement of speech therapy services throughout the country; if his attention has been drawn to the current need with regard to improvement of the services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1001/94]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

157 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Health whether the ratio of speech therapists to population in this country is in keeping with internationally accepted norms; the proposals, if any, he has for meeting such criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1003/94]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59, 128 and 158 together.

There were approximately 205 whole time equivalent speech therapists employed directly by the health boards, voluntary hospitals and the main mental handicap agencies at 31 December 1993. International norms vary greatly and are not necessarily relevant in an Irish context. I have been aware of the need to strengthen speech therapy service provision and I have allocated additional funding to the expansion of these services over the past two years. In 1993, almost £200,000 of the £1.5 million additional funding for services for people with a physical disability was allocated to this service and a further £150,000 has been allocated this year. The current figure of 213 represents an increase of 45 on the December 1991 figure.

The development of the speech therapy service in this country is inhibited by the lack of sufficient numbers of trained speech therapists. My Department took steps to remedy this problem by arranging for six extra training places to be provided at the School of Clinical Speech and Language Studies, Trinity College Dublin, commencing in the 1992-93 academic year. In the last two years, the total student body has increased from 80 students to 94 students and it is hoped to increase this to 104 in 1995-96. The increased level of graduate output resulting from this important development should ease difficulties in the area of speech and language therapy in the medium to long term.
The Review Group on Physical and Senatory Disabilities has been examining a range of services for people with physical disabilities, including speech therapy. It is expected that the group will submit its final report within the next few months.