Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Ceisteanna (58)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

58. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Health the steps he is taking to reduce waiting times for speech and language, psychology and occupational therapy services in County Meath. [5404/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I accept that the current time to access primary care therapy services can be too long and that this may cause anxiety for individuals who are currently waiting to access services.

It is for this reason that the expansion of primary care was prioritised as part of the National Service Planning process for 2019. Overall funding for primary care increased by more than €50m or 6.1%, and this additional resourcing will enable a range of measures to be advanced, including the recruitment of additional nursing and therapy staff. The exact profile of the additional investment at county level is currently being determined in consultation with Community Healthcare Organisations.

In County Meath, there have been a number of initiatives to ensure timely access to primary care services. For example, an additional six SLTs were recruited under a waiting list initiative in 2016, while the county also benefitted from the assignment of five posts under the roll-out of the new Assistant Psychology grade. This will enhance the provision of counselling services to young people, and the HSE has advised that it has already resulted in an increase in referrals screened and the number of interventions offered to families.

Similarly, County Meath has benefitted from additional investment in OT. The OT staffing complement was increased to 2.5 WTE in 2017 and this was supplemented by an interim allocation of a further 3 WTE in 2018. In addition, a service improvement plan has been initiated and has achieved its target of reducing waiting times to maximum of 52 weeks.