Years Spent on Waiting Lists Damaging Every Aspect of Children’s Lives

23 May 2017 in Press Releases, Advocacy, Featured

Barnardos is calling on the Government to immediately address the extensive waiting lists that operate in key areas of healthcare essential to a child’s development. Every day waiting is too long given the short timeframe of accelerated physical and mental growth experienced in childhood.                                                                                           

Barnardos has found worrying delays in children’s access to assessments and treatments; clear regional variations in the care that children receive; and many parents forced to pay privately for the assessments and treatments their children need, very often placing them and their families under huge financial and emotional strain as a result.

Fergus Finlay, CEO, Barnardos, said, “The waiting list figures make for sobering reading. It reinforces that cycles of poverty, disadvantage and ill-health occur when access to healthcare is denied from such a young age.

  • In February 2017 there were 2,520 children and young people on waiting lists for an initial assessment for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) - an increase of over 44% from the same period last year. Of these children and young people, 10% had been waiting more than 12 months for their initial appointment (HSE data).
  • Of the 10,100 children waiting for speech and language therapy – only 55% of these were seen within 4 months with 2% waiting over two years. (HSE data).
  • The average timeframe for getting an assessment of need to determine scale of disability is 11 months – in excess of the statutory framework of 3-6 months (HSE data).

“These delays have long-term unnecessary consequences on the child, eroding their chance to grow and thrive, affecting every aspect of their development for the sake of offering timely interventions. These delays harm children, and this harm could be prevented. This is utterly unacceptable.

“We also see very strong regional variations. For instance, in the Cory/Kerry region, over 100 children and young people were waiting for more than 12 months for an initial CAMHS assessment, whereas in the Clare/Limerick/Tipperary region no one waited for more than a year. These inconsistencies are extremely worrying. Where you live should not determine how quickly you can get help for your child when they need it.”

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos, said, “Getting access to medical assessments and treatment when a child needs them is crucial otherwise it really can impair their ability to grow. It can affect all aspects of their childhood as they don’t meet their essential developmental milestones and can inhibit them in excelling in school, in their friendships and future employment prospects as later remedial interventions are more likely to be unsuccessful and far more costly.”

“The Government committed a quarter of their entire budget to the Department of Health last year (€14.6 of €58 billion). Why are children languishing on waiting lists despite these levels of investment? Too many children’s health, wellbeing and overall development is being compromised because of our insufficient and non-responsive public health system.”

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Note to editors

Barnardos believes access to health services must be based on need and not on the ability to pay. As a matter of urgency, the following services must be made available to tackle lengthy waiting lists:

  • Fully implement the draft proposal of the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare (2017) to stop treating private patients in public hospitals, except in cases where specialist treatment is needed. This would drastically reduce the numbers of patients on waiting lists, and would ensure more public patients can access public health services in a timely manner.
  • Guarantee one Primary Care Team with a full complement of multidisciplinary professionals for every 1,500 children. These teams must comprise GPs, nurses, home helps, physiotherapists, speech and language, psychologists and occupational therapists, and act as a one stop shop for community care needs.
  • Tackle regional disparities by modifying the resource allocation model in line with the reality that the prevalence of conditions such as speech and language difficulties, dyslexia and communication or coordination disorders is much higher among low income groups. This approach along with age profiling of the population areas would ensure services are distributed more appropriately and patients treated based on need and not their ability to pay.
  • Develop 24/7 crisis intervention mental health services across the country. Young people have described accessing supports through hospital A&Es as inappropriate and distressing to an individual experiencing a mental health crisis.
  • Ensure CAMHs has its full staffing levels as originally envisaged in Vision for Change
  • Back fill vacancies in the HSE Early Intervention Teams as a priority.
  • Implement a National Early Intervention Policy to ensure uniformity in the processes of assessment and provision of services for each child with a disability in Ireland.