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Waiting lists for occupational therapy shoot up a massive 50% in just two years

The huge lists may be just the tip of the iceberg – figures for those already undergoing treatment are not available according to the HSE.

shutterstock_356974976 File photo Source: Shutterstock/photo4passion.at

WAITING LISTS FOR first-time occupational therapy consultations have jumped to a massive extent in less than two years.

Newly-released figures show that the numbers waiting for such treatment have increased by just under 50% since August 2015.

There are now 29,688 people waiting on a first-time consultancy (as at the end of May this year), up 9,675 (48%) since August two years ago.

The largest group of people on the list is children and teenagers. Nearly half the entire total, 14,594 people, are made up of those aged 17 or younger.

Over a third of that group alone, 5,271, have been waiting for more than a year.

At the other end of the spectrum, meanwhile, a significant number of people aged 65 and up are also enduring long waits for initial consultations.

The number of such people who have been waiting for longer than a year for an appointment has more than trebled from 414 to 1,266 in just under two years.

Occupational therapy is chiefly concerned with helping people to participate, or regain the ability to participate, in day-to-day life activities.

mmm Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Source: Rollingnews.ie

It is often centred on those living with disabilities, or recovering from serious injuries such as those sustained in road accidents.

Treatment figures missing

The enormous waiting list may actually be the tip of the iceberg – the figures released by the HSE to Fianna Fáil disabilities spokesperson Margaret Murphy O’Mahony cover only first-time consultations and not those actually on treatment plans.

The lists for ongoing treatment are unavailable, according to the HSE, due to a “data gap” that has “arisen from historical practices which involved the simultaneous assessment and commencement of treatment”, according to a spokesperson.

In order to address this inconsistent approach to occupational service delivery an occupational therapy service improvement group has been established to develop a new national model of service that will ensure a consistent standard approach is undertaken across the country with waiting time and other key performance data collected.

“To have so many young people waiting so long for an assessment for such essential therapy is just inexcusable,” said Murphy O’Mahony, to whom the figures were released via a parliamentary question.

“We need to bear in mind too that this is just a waiting list for an assessment. Once this hurdle is overcome, there may then be a further waiting list for actual therapy.

Waiting such long periods of time for assessment and then treatment can have a detrimental impact on people’s quality of life and treatment outcomes.

The HSE’s service improvement group is due to report at the end of 2017, a spokesperson told TheJournal.ie.

“Additional staffing for primary care teams has been included as part of the 2018 estimates process,” they added.

The data behind the figures detailed in this article can be downloaded here

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