Dáil Éireann - Volume 548 - 07 February, 2002

Written Answers. - Hospital Staffing.

  106. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps he will take to tackle the critical shortage of clinical psychologists, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. [4014/02]

  Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): In response to my concern regarding the current severe labour shortages affecting the therapy professions nationwide my Department commissioned a report from Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates on current and future supply and demand conditions in the labour market for speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. The study was published in July 2001 and concluded that a major expansion is essential in the numbers of each of the therapy grades, requiring a significant increase in training places. To this end an inter-agency working group has been established comprising representatives of my Department, the Department of Education and Science and the Higher Education Authority. The Higher Education Authority has initiated a formal bidding process between third level educational institutions to respond to the training needs identified in the study. The proposals received are currently being assessed by the inter-agency working group. In addition, I understand that a concerted overseas recruitment campaign will be initiated shortly on behalf of the health boards for scarce [174] physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy personnel.

  I am aware, in the context of work carried out by my Department with health service employers and IMPACT on the Joint Review Group on Psychology Services in the Health Service, that shortages of psychology staff, including clinical psychologists, exist in the health service. The review group identified that a key factor was the inadequate number of postgraduate training places available.

  A workforce planning exercise carried out under the aegis of the review recommended the provision of approximately 30 additional postgraduate training places in psychology. Following a process initiated by my Department, these additional places are now being provided through the Psychological Society of Ireland's postgraduate diploma course.