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Written Answers. - Orthodontic Service.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 1

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[263]

 330. Mr. Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton  asked the Minister for Health and Children Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  the number of children in categories A, B and C respectively, awaiting assessment and treatment respectively in the various health boards; the average time waiting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23296/02]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons is the statutory responsibility of the health boards in the first instance. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken a number of measures to improve orthodontic services on a national basis.

A grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created to address the issues of recruitment and retention of qualified clinical personnel in the orthodontic service. In addition, my Department expects to fund eleven dentists this year from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics [264] qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at two separate universities in the United Kingdom. This is an aggregate of eighteen public service dentists currently in training for specialist in orthodontics qualifications. The creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist is another structural measure being introduced in order to increase the number of orthodontic treatments.

In the short-term, additional funding of €6.729 million was approved for orthodontic services last year of which €4.698 million was to fund an initiative on orthodontic waiting lists. This is enabling health boards to recruit additional staff and engage the services of private specialist orthodontic practitioners to treat patients. Furthermore, my Department has provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment.

The chief executive officers of the health boards have informed me of the following information on their orthodontic waiting lists as at the end of the September 2002 quarter:

    Assessment Waiting List       Treatment Waiting List
Health Board   Average Waiting Time (Months) Category A Waiting time (Months) Category B Waiting time (Months)
SWAHB 4302 * 174 18-24 496 36
ECAHB 243   34   429  
NAHB 1400 ** 22   2,097  
Midland 117 3 Nil No Waiting time 313 9
Mid-Western 1,659 24-36 Nil No Waiting Time 879 24-36
North-Eastern 0 No Waiting Time 4 1.5-2 312 18-24
North-Western 535 4.5 128 10.5 1,297 39
South-Eastern 378 3-3.5 Nil No Waiting Time 487 12
Southern 6,165 According to Date of Birth. Currently 1988 Nil No Waiting Time 3,766 48
Western 599 9 Nil No Waiting Time 1,066 36-48

*There are no category A patients awaiting assessment, category B have an average waiting time of 48 months for assessment.

**Category A patients have an average waiting time of six months for assessment, category B have an average waiting time of 12 months for assessment.

Patients in category A require immediate treatment and include those with congenital abnormalities of the jaws such as cleft lip and palate, and patients with major skeletal discrepancies between the sizes of the jaws. Patients in category B have less severe problems than category A patients and are placed on the orthodontic treatment waiting list. The number of cases treated is dependent on the level of resources available, in terms of qualified staff, in the area and this is reflected in the treatment waiting list. In fact, the provision of orthodontic services is currently severely restricted due to the limited availability of trained specialist clinical staff to assess and treat patients and accordingly boards do not normally maintain category C waiting lists.

The chief executive officers of the health boards have further informed me that at the end of the September 2002 quarter, there were 18,511 patients in orthodontic treatment in the health boards. This is an increase of 1,216 patients in orthodontic treatment when compared with the number of patients in treatment in December 2001. I expect that the number of patients in orthodontic treatment will continue to increase as the measures that I have taken to improve orthodontic services take effect.

 331. Mr. Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton  asked the Minister for Health and Children Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  when a person (details supplied) in County Cork who has been seven years waiting to be assessed in order to ascertain whether or not they will qualify for orthodontic treatment in the Southern Health Board region, will have this assessment carried out; the number of such children awaiting assessment in the Southern Health Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23297/02]

[265]Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to the person concerned rests with the Southern Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board (SHB) has informed me that at the end of the September 2002 quarter, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 6,165 cases awaiting orthodontic assessment in the board's area. The chief executive officer has further informed me that at the end of the same quarter, there were 3,067 cases receiving orthodontic treatment in the SHB. This is an increase of 767 patients when compared with the end of the December 2001 quarter.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have taken a range of measures to improve orthodontic services on a national basis that will impact positively in the SHB area. A grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created to address the issues of recruitment and retention of qualified clinical personnel in the orthodontic service. In addition, my Department expects to fund eleven dentists this year from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at two separate universities in the United Kingdom. This is an aggregate of eighteen public service dentists currently in training for specialist in orthodontics qualifications. The creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist is another structural measure being introduced in order to increase the number of orthodontic treatments.

In the short-term, additional funding of €6.729 million was approved for orthodontic services last year of which €4.698 million was to fund an initiative on orthodontic waiting lists. For its initiative the SHB received an additional €1.032 million and this is enabling the board to, inter alia, recruit additional staff. Furthermore, my Department has provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. The SHB received €0.720 million from this fund for the treatment of cases in this way.

My Department has also funded the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics at Cork university dental school to facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. Finally, I expect that the number of patients in orthodontic treatment will continue to increase as the measures that I have taken to improve orthodontic services take effect.


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