Thousands of children left on waiting lists for health services, charity says

The government is being called on to urgently address the waits being faced by thousands of children in Ireland for essential public health services.

Children's charity Barnardos said that there are widespread regional inconsistencies in the time children are left to wait for speech and language services, child and adolescent mental health services and disability assessments.

It said that the south of Ireland is a "particular blackspot" in terms of service provision and wait times.

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy at Barnardos has said that significant delays in accessing treatment can have a profound, long-lasting impact on a child's health, development and well-being and result in "a childhood lost".

"While there has been some progress in reducing the number of children waiting over a year in a few regions, our latest review of waiting list data confirms an ongoing crisis in key service areas," said Ms Tinsley.

"While Barnardos welcomes a sizable decrease (30% between September 2017 and March 2018) in the number of children waiting for speech and language therapy, there have unfortunately been simultaneous increases in the number of children waiting for speech and language assessment and further treatment.

"In total there are 29,481 children waiting for speech and language services across the country, 1,567 of those have been waiting over a year."

One parent said that their child - who at two-and-a-half years old has never spoken a word - waited nine months to be seen by a Speech and Language Therapist.

"The therapist noted he had a disorder not a delay but made no diagnosis, simply placed him back on the list for another 12 months and placed him on a list for therapy that is seven to nine months long," the unidentified parent said.

Ms Tinsley said that there has been a 15% increase in the number of children waiting for mental health services between September 2017 and March 2018.

In March of this year, 2,691 children were waiting for mental health services.

"This increase is accompanied, in most areas, by a rise in the number of children waiting longer than one year, with almost 14% now waiting more than a year for an initial appointment," said Ms Tinsley.

It is not difficult to imagine the damage which is being done by forcing children to wait any amount of time for mental health services and support – let alone over a year.

"Where a child lives tragically seems to dramatically impact how quickly they receive support – 32.4% of children waiting for services in the south west (CHO4) have been waiting over a year for mental health services, whereas no children have been left waiting over a year in North Dublin (CHO9).

"The South East (CH05) is facing a serious crisis where three psychiatrists are resigning next month due to safety concerns, potentially resulting in no child and adolescent mental health services in this region."

You can read the full Barnardos report here.

Digital Desk

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