Speech and language therapy has 252 children on waiting list

Speech and language therapy has 252 children on waiting list

A TOTAL of 252 children are on the waiting list for further paediatric speech and language therapy in Tallaght for over two years.

However, when it comes to the waiting time for an initial assessment for speech and language therapy, the majority of children, totalling 177, are seen within four months, with no children currently waiting over two years for an initial assessment.

Following an initial assessment, the waiting time for the majority of children for initial therapy, totalling 98, is over two years. The second-highest figure, of 72 children, have been waiting 12 to 18 months.

The issue was raised by Fianna Fáil councillor Charlie O’Connor at a meeting of the Dublin/Mid-Leinster Regional Health Forum on Tuesday.

Cllr O’Connor tabled a motion where he called for action to be taken about the waiting times and requested that the HSE provide “assurances that action is being taken”.

In response, Gillian Farrelly, the interim head of service primary care for HSE Dublin South, Kildare and West Wicklow, provided statistics for waiting times and details about action being taken.

“The Primary Care Speech and Language Therapy Service has taken several actions to address waiting times,” stated Ms Farrelly.

“Additional resources have been provided to target those waiting the longest for the service and to try and reduce the waiting times.

“The service has taken some steps to minimise the disruption caused by Covid-19 guidelines and the redeployment of staff during the pandemic, such as offering a blend of telehealth and face-to-face appointments.

“Referrals to the service are monitored and waiting lists are validated regularly.

“Following assessment, clients are placed on appropriate evidence-based clinical care therapy pathways.”

Other actions taken, according to Ms Farrelly, include the use of an ‘opt-in’ system to allow families to arrange appointments at a day or time that is convenient to them.

“This reduces the number of cancelled or missed appointments,” added Ms Farrelly.

“The service also operates a drop-in advice clinic that families can access while awaiting an appointment and or further intervention.

“Therapy is also offered in groups, where appropriate, to maximise efficiency while maintaining quality service.”

It’s noted in the response that waiting times have been exacerbated as a result of “a significant increase in referrals” from Assessment of Need and a number of vacancies in the speech and language therapy team in Dublin South West.

Compared to last year, Ms Farrelly said waiting times for initial assessments have remained “broadly the same” and there has been a reduction of the waitlist for further therapy by 27 per cent since November 2021.

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