Thursday, 30 June 1994
Dáil Éireann Debate
130. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health whether he has satisfied himself that the rate of remuneration for speech therapists in this country is sufficiently attractive to facilitate the provision of an adequate ongoing quality service in view of the attractions available to the profession overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
131. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health whether he has satisfied himself that sufficient speech therapists are trained and available on an annual basis to meet the requirements in the various health board areas throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
132. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the proposals, if any, he has to augment the speech therapy service throughout the country with particular reference to bringing the service into line with needs in the respective health board areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
133. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the current requirements of speech therapists throughout the country; the total number of speech therapists available; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As in all circumstances where resources are finite, there is scope for development and my Department will give every consideration to this as and when resources allow. On foot of an interim report by the Review Group on Physical and Sensory Disabilities, £1.5 million was provided in 1993 for service developments, including the provision of speech therapy services. This is being maintained in the annual funding, and a further £1.5 million has been made available in 1994.
Regarding the requirement for the service and the numbers employed in the provision of such a service, I should explain to the Deputy that in accordance with my Department's current personnel policy, health boards and hospitals have discretion to prioritise service demands and the related staffing composition within their overall established staffing complement and financial allocation.
 According to the most recent figures available, the number of speech therapists employed by health boards is 148. The corresponding number for non-health board hospitals, mental handicap homes and specialist agencies is 57.
The lack of sufficient numbers of trained speech therapists graduating each year has been a difficulty in relation to the provision of service in recent years. My Department has taken steps to remedy the situation by arranging for six extra training places to be provided at the School of Clinical Speech and Language Studies, Trinity College, Dublin commencing in the 1992-93 academic year. The total student body will increase in phases from 80 students in 1992 to 104 students in 1995-96. This increased level of graduate output should make a significant improvement in the provision of speech therapy services.
In relation to the rate of remuneration of speech therapists, this issue has already been addressed in the House by Minister O'Dea on the Adjournment Debate of the Dáil on 14 June. The pay claim is being actively pursued through the normal industrial relations channels and within the provisions of the Programme for Competitiveness and Work. On the question of the attractions available to the profession overseas, the decision to travel and gain experience abroad is entirely a personal decision and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on what is essentially a matter of personal choice.
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