Children’s scoliosis waiting lists fall despite Temple Street controversy

Dáil to debate Sinn Fein motion this week calling for taskforce to review scoliosis and spina bifida services

Waiting lists for children’s spinal surgery have fallen since the controversy over orthopaedic services at Temple Street children’s hospital began last autumn, said new figures.

The waiting list for spinal fusion operations fell 13 per cent at Crumlin children’s hospital since early September and by 4 per cent at Temple Street, the figures from Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) show. There was a 9 per cent fall in the waiting list for other spinal operations at Crumlin and a 3 per cent fall for this category at Temple Street.

Since the controversy over the work of a consultant at Temple Street erupted in early September to the end of January, 231 spinal procedures have been carried out. Most were performed in Crumlin, but 19 were outsourced to the private Blackrock clinic, said the CHI figures.

On Tuesday, the Dáil will debate a Sinn Féin motion accusing the Government of failing to deliver on commitments made to children requiring surgery for scoliosis and other orthopaedic conditions.


In March 2017, the motion notes, then Minister for Health Simon Harris promised no child would wait for more than four months for spinal surgery by the end of that year. The most recent figures show there were 327 children waiting on scoliosis-related surgery with CHI, higher than the 312 on the list at the time of Mr Harris’s promise.

“The fact is there are more children on scoliosis-related waiting lists now than when Minister Harris gave that commitment. Three quarters of children are waiting longer than four months for orthopaedic surgeries,” Sinn Féin’s health spokesman David Cullinane said.

The motion calls for the establishment of a taskforce to review scoliosis and spina bifida services, independent of CHI management and “mandated to listen, engage, and act on the advice and concerns of parents, patient advocates, and clinicians”.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly undertook last month to convene a taskforce, to include patient representatives and clinicians. He subsequently wrote to advocacy groups to get their view on the terms of reference of the taskforce.

While some patients groups support the plan for a taskforce, two – the Scoliosis Advocacy Network and Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Paediatric Advocacy say it must be “statutory”.

Mr Cullinane said that while the question of a statutory taskforce did not arise in his discussions with advocacy groups it was important for one to have “real teeth”.

At Temple Street, a new spinal consultant has been identified to support the spina bifida service and has commenced seeing patients at fortnightly clinics, a CHI spokeswoman said. “Going forward, spinal surgery for patients with spina bifida will take place in both Crumlin and Temple Street depending on the individual clinical needs of each patient.”

This article was updated at 6pm on February 21st 2024 with new figures for waiting list performance after CHI said the figures it originally provided were incorrect.

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Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.