Dáil Éireann - Volume 552 - 23 April, 2002
Written Answers. - Speech Therapy Service.
Mr. Deasy Mr. Deasy
131. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress which has been made in increasing the number of speech and language therapists in the South-Eastern Health Board area and in particular in Waterford City and Waterford county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12515/02]
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Responsibility for human resource planning, including the provision of speech and language therapists, in the South-Eastern Health Board area rests with the South-Eastern Health Board. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer of that board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly. The Deputy may also be aware that, in response to my concern regarding shortages of qualified therapy personnel – including speech and language therapists – my Department commissioned a report on Current and Future Supply and Demand Conditions in the Labour Market  for Certain Professional Therapists from Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates.
The Bacon report, which was published in July 2001, concluded that a major expansion is essential in the numbers of speech and language therapists requiring a very significant increase in training places to meet the long-term needs of the health service. The report therefore advocated an annual increase of 75 training places for speech and language therapy in order to achieve the fourfold increase in the number of speech and language therapists over the next decade recommended in the report.
To advance this core recommendation of the report, 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 Bacon report. The proposals received are currently being assessed by the inter-agency working group with a view to early progress in the provision of the extra training places recommended.
Initiatives to progress other key recommendations included in the Bacon report are set out below: the planned establishment of a national network of clinical placement co-ordinators to support the provision of additional clinical placements; a concerted overseas recruitment of scarce therapy personnel undertaken on behalf of all the health boards by the Northern Area Health Board; the establishment of the health skills group under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness to support the development of integrated workforce planning and improved human resource planning in the health service; the ongoing implementation of the report of the expert group on various health professions to address outstanding issues including workload, working practices and skills-mix issues highlighted in the Bacon report; and the preparation of a scheme for the statutory registration for health and social care professionals, consistent with the requirement for a person-centred health service.
Dáil Éireann 552 Written Answers. Speech Therapy Service.