More than 18,000 children waiting for initial occupational therapy assessment

Thousands of children waiting over a year to access vital services

There were a further 9,332 children waiting for physiotherapy appointments. Photograph: iStock

There were a further 9,332 children waiting for physiotherapy appointments. Photograph: iStock


Thousands of children are waiting months to access vital services such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and dietetics, new figures have revealed.

There were 18,303 children waiting for a first-time assessment for occupational therapy as of September, according to figures released by the HSE.

Some 9,490 of these children have been waiting for over a year.

Community Health Organisation (CHO) 5, which covers Kilkenny, Carlow, Tipperary South, Waterford and Wexford, had 4,339 children waiting for their first appointment, the most in any area of Ireland.

There were a further 9,332 children waiting for physiotherapy appointments, and 2,433 of these children have been waiting for more than a year.

Children living in Laois, Offaly, Westmeath, Longford, Meath and Louth faced the longest wait for physio, and this CHO 8 area also had the most children waiting for physio at 2,228.

Children trying to access speech and language therapy also faced long waiting lists.

Some 12,524 children were waiting for an initial assessment, another 8,183 were waiting for initial therapy, and 11,727 were waiting for further therapy.

Cork Kerry Community Healthcare had the most children waiting in total.

Some 5,034 children were also waiting for an appointment with a dietician, and 2,573 had been waiting for over a year.

Some 1,457 children in Kilkenny, Carlow, Tipperary South, Waterford and Wexford were waiting for treatment, making it the worst-affected area by the delays.

The figures were released by the HSE to Sinn Féin TD Mark Ward in response to a parliamentary question.

In their response, the HSE said that therapy services for children are provided through Primary Care Teams in Community Healthcare Organisations, and children with complex needs access supports through Childrens’ Disability Network Teams.

The HSE added that Progressing Disability Services has been introduced, and it claimed that when implemented, it will help improve access to services.

“The HSE acknowledges that significant levels of vital therapies were temporarily curtailed due to the current Covid-19 pandemic,” they said.

“The restoration and continuity of services is underway in a safe way in line with the very significant investment made by the State and funded agencies. We continue to work with service users and their families/carers to ensure that we achieve this aim.”

Mr Ward said that there seems to be different levels of treatment available, depending on where the children lived. “There is... an element of postcode services here.

“We need the government to act on this, and provide a unity of service across the state so that children can access the care they need, when they need it and where they need it.”

The HSE were contacted for comment.