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.
Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) published the update on the Scoliosis 10-Point Action Plan on 12th July. This marks the second update to the plan, following an interim progress report which issued in October 2018. The plan, which was co-designed by clinicians and managers in paediatric orthopaedics and with the three scoliosis advocacy groups-Scoliosis Advocacy Network Group (SANG), Scoliosis Support and Awareness Ireland, and Scoliosis Ireland - sets out how additional funding provided by the HSE is invested to support children and young people with scoliosis.
The July publication provides an update on the progress made to date up against the 10 actions points and demonstrates the completion of four of the actions with a commitment to implementing the remaining six actions this year.
CHI advise that their priority for 2019 is to ensure that capacity is available to schedule patients that require surgery based on clinical priority. More broadly, waiting list figures for the end of June 2019 indicate the impact of the plan, with overall waiting list figures for scoliosis surgery at the end of June recording a 20% reduction since January 2018. The addition of a new orthopaedic consultant post and the extension of theatre opening hours will continue to support the management of general orthopaedic waiting lists and enable consultants to better manage both spinal referral patients, and general orthopaedics, in order to reduce the number of patients waiting for a surgical procedure.
In terms of activity, across CHI a total of 418 scoliosis-related surgical procedures were performed in 2018, compared with 371 in 2017 and 224 in 2016. To date this year, CHI have carried out 179 such procedures.
CHI further advise that as part of the Action Plan, additional Multidisciplinary Team staff appointments have been made across CHI increasing support to the service. In this regard, 88% of HSE funded posts, as per the 2019 National Service Plan, are in place, with the remaining posts at various stages of the recruitment process.
With regard to children with complex clinical needs, I have met regularly with the Senior Management of the HSE and the CEO of Children’s Health Ireland to discuss their short term and long-term plans to provide a better service for patients and their families. The CEO has provided assurances to me and advised that while there are a number of very complex and difficult cases at present, the Hospital will continue to provide all the support and services required to children and their patients. In situations where a child has multiple clinical complexities and medical conditions, a multidisciplinary team of specialist consultants always work in consultation with parents on the development and management of an appropriate treatment plan.