Thousands awaiting assessments for occupational therapy

Thousands awaiting assessments for occupational therapy

Michael Moynihan, chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters, who was given the updated figures. File picture.

New figures show that 36,335 people are still awaiting a first time assessment for occupational therapy – including 20,996 children, more than half of whom have been waiting more than a year.

The figures for the end of December show just a marginal decrease compared to those posted last August, when just over 37,000 people were on the waiting list.

The data, provided by the HSE in response to a parliamentary question by Fianna Fáil TD Michael Moynihan, also shows continuing and lengthy waiting lists for others forms of therapy, with children again impacted. 

For instance, the new figures show 16,446 children were awaiting an initial speech and language assessment at the end of 2020, including 3,685 waiting at least a year.

The situation was worst in Dublin.

Some 9,574 people are awaiting initial speech and language therapy nationally, some 3,685 of whom have been waiting at least a year. Cork and Kerry, HSE CHO 4, is worst affected with 2,295 waiting, including more than a 1,000 people in the North Lee area alone.

As for those aged 18 and under awaiting further speech and language therapy, at the end of last December 18,552 children and teenagers were on the waiting list, including 3,411 in CHO 4, again the worst area affected.

In its response, the HSE gave a total number of 23,180 waiting at the end of the year for an initial speech and language assessment, with CHO 7 (Kildare/West Wicklow and parts of Dublin) the worst affected area, with 4,155 people waiting. In addition, 718 people have been waiting more than two years for an assessment, including 391 in Dublin.

As for the number of people awaiting initial speech and language therapy, that stood at 11,443 nationally at the end of December, with CHO 4 (Cork and Kerry) worst affected, with 2,348 on the waiting list. Almost 5,000 people around the country have been waiting at least a year for their initial speech and language therapy.

When it comes to speech and language further therapy, the waiting list is worse again, with 22,607 people waiting, with CHO 4 again worse affected. Some 6,629 people have been waiting for at least a year for further speech and language therapy.

According to the data provided, the single biggest waiting list was for physiotherapy, with 47,674 people in total awaiting an assessment as of the end of 2020.

CHO 8 – Laois, Offaly, Westmeath, Meath, Louth and Longford – had the longest waiting list with 7,956 people, followed by CHO 5, which includes South Tipperary and the South-East counties, with 7,040. Of those aged 0 to 18, 3,448 have been waiting for more than a year for an assessment, while 2,407 of those aged 65 and over have also been waiting a year or more.

The HSE pointed out that some areas were not in a position to return data due to staff being redeployed to Covid-19 related duties.

"The HSE is working to ensure timely access to children and adults requiring therapy services, and to reduce long waiting times for these important services," it told Mr Moynihan, chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters.

"As this is an evolving and unprecedented situation, the HSE will keep matters in review and will advise clients and/or family members accordingly."

The committee has pledged to explore the issue of waiting lists in disability services at future sittings.

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