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72,000 now on Primary Care Waiting Lists while key staff still await appointment.

New figures provided to me through a Dáil Question show that at least 72,000 people await one of the core primary care services, physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, or occupational therapy.

The breakdown is as follows:

Speech and Language Therapy

The total waiting for speech and language therapy, mostly young children, is 34,617. Of this, 15,713 are waiting on an assessment and 18,904 are waiting for treatment.  6,500 are waiting longer than a year.

Occupational Therapy

The total number waiting for assessment by a primary care occupational therapist is 15,830. Of these, over 2,500 are waiting longer than 12 months, including 1,900 children and 600 over 65’s. Treatment waiting lists are not currently collected for Occupational Therapy in Primary Care.

Physiotherapy

The total number waiting for physiotherapy is 21,620. Of these, 6,300 are waiting longer than 12 weeks. There is no breakdown between assessment and treatment waiting lists for this service.

The 72,000 figure relates to the end of December last, the latest date for which figures are available.

€20 million was set aside in 2012 to tackle service deficits in these areas but was used instead to address the budget over-runs elsewhere in the health service. In the 2013 HSE service plan, €20 million was again set aside to fill such posts. We cannot afford to lose any more time in filling all of these essential front-line posts.

Delays in accessing services in primary care, especially for children, makes treatment more difficult and costs the health service more in the long run. If the Government is serious about strengthening primary care, there is absolutely no excuse for delaying the recruitment of these staff any longer.