Thursday, 28 January 2016
Department of Health
Orthodontic Service Waiting Lists
273. To ask the Minister for Health if he will provide additional funding in 2016 to reduce orthodontic waiting lists on the north side of Dublin given that the waiting times are several years long as against a matter of months in other parts of County Dublin; and if he will contract out this work in order to tackle the unacceptably long waiting times. [3722/16]
The HSE provides orthodontic treatment to those who have been assessed and referred for treatment before their 16th birthday. It should be noted that the nature of orthodontic care means that immediate treatment is not always desirable. It is estimated that in up to 5% of cases it is necessary to wait for further growth to take place, until after 16-18 years of age, before treatment commences. Patients are assessed by the HSE Orthodontic Service under the modified Index of Treatment Need. Patients with the greatest level of need are provided with treatment by the HSE.
Following a national procurement process, a panel of independent practitioners will be contracted by the HSE in the coming weeks to provide treatment for certain categories of misalignment. The practitioners will be under contract over the next three years, with consideration of an extension to four years. This initiative will especially focus on those waiting for four years or longer. The majority of patients to be treated will come from the Dublin area. It is expected that this initiative will have a positive impact on waiting times.
In addition, a pilot scheme in the Dublin North East area (DNE), which involves up-skilling staff to work as orthodontic therapists is currently underway. A dental hygienist and a dental nurse qualified as orthodontic therapists in September 2015 and are now working in the HSE under the supervision of specialist orthodontists. The scheme is currently undergoing an evaluation, which includes consideration of how the scheme is affecting waiting lists. Figures are currently being collated and early indications are positive. It is planned to extend the scheme nationally after the evaluation has been completed.