Each child that presents to the Health Service Executive's (HSE) Speech and Language Therapy Service has an initial assessment to determine the individuals presenting need and requirements for therapy. The therapist in conjunction with the parents or carer will determine the severity of the child’s difficulties and prioritize for therapy accordingly.
Many children can have their speech and language needs adequately met through uni-disciplinary Speech and Language therapy services in Primary Care. Children with more complex needs requiring multi-disciplinary intervention, are referred to specialist disability services.
I have been advised by the HSE that the following measures are in place to reduce waiting times to access Speech and Language Therapy services in County Meath.
A cross divisional monthly Speech and Language referral forum is in operation. Between August and November 2019 this resulted in 99 children being moved from the Disability waiting list, to have their therapy service provided in Primary Care, where the waiting list is less lengthy. This ensures that children with complex needs continue to receive specialist Disability services but in a more timely manner, whilst those who can have their needs met in Primary Care benefit from the shorter waiting times.
Two vacant Speech and Language therapy posts were filled with both new staff starting work in November. The HSE expect that to see an improvement in waiting times in early 2020 following the induction of these two therapists. The HSE also allocated 1 WTE new Speech and Language Therapy post to County Meath under Progressing Disability for Children and Young People Progamme and this post has been assigned to the Trim Network where waiting times are longest.
The Speech and Language therapy services in County Meath monitor all staff’s statistics on a monthly basis (based on agreed caseloads), and are subject to review and supervison by the Speech and Language Therapy Manager. In addition the Speech and Language Therapy services in County Meath regularly review and update service models to ensure adherence to best, evidence-based practice.
The service have also implemented 'Parent Power', a programme of workshops that run regularly throughout the year to support parents in managing their child's communication at home whilst awaiting one to one Speech and Language Therapy. These workshops were designed based on solution focused interviews with a cohort of parents awaiting services, to ensure they would meet the needs of families in this area.
I acknowledge that timely access to Speech and language Therapy is vital for every child’s development and I understand how delays in accessing assessment and intervention are a source of great concern for both children and their families. While not addressing all needs, the filling of the new post and the two vacant posts along with the other initiatives I have outlined will have a significant positive impact in reducing waiting times for Speech and Language Therapy services in County Meath over the course of the next year.