Wednesday, 7 May 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
480. Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children the arrangements being made to tackle the backlog of orthodontic treatment required by patients here; if arrangements can be made to have treatment abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11884/03]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): As the Deputy is aware, the provision of orthodontic treatment for eligible persons is the responsibility of the health boards-authority 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. The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. This year, my Department and the health boards are funding 13 dentists from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at two separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training last year and one dentist whose specialist training is nearing completion. Thus there is an aggregate of 20 public service dentists currently in training for specialist in orthodontics qualifications. These measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.
Orthodontic initiative funding of €4.698 million was provided for the health boards-authority in 2001 and this has enabled health boards to recruit additional staff, engage the services of private specialist orthodontic practitioners to treat patients and build additional orthodontic facilities.
In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund for health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. This funding is enabling boards to provide both additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners. This scheme has also enabled some boards to make arrangements for the treatment of cases by private specialist orthodontic practitioners from Northern Ireland. Children in treatment in the health board orthodontic service receive between 18 to 24 appointments over the course of their treatment period of approximately two years. This attendance pattern is not conducive with the referral of cases overseas for treatment.
The chief executive officers of the health boards-authority have informed me that at the end of the March 2003 quarter, there were 20,272 patients receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. This is an increase of approximately 2,168 patients in orthodontic treatment when compared with the number of patients receiving treatment in March 2002. I expect that the number of patients receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service will continue to increase as the measures that I have taken impact further on the service.
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