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9 September 2022: In February 2022, Children’s Health Ireland welcomed the announcement of funding approved from the Department of Health to bring down waiting times for access to children’s services in Children’s Health Ireland, with Scoliosis and Spina Bifida a priority focus within the Paediatric Orthopaedic specialty.  The funding also supported a joint initiative with the National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh to substantially increase the clinically appropriate paediatric Orthopaedic Scoliosis and Spina Bifida work undertaken in Cappagh Hospital.

The Waiting List Scoliosis/Spina Bifida Action Plan and funding was formally agreed with the HSE and Department of Health in April of this year. This plan covered Paediatric Orthopaedic services in Crumlin, Temple Street, Cappagh and Blackrock Clinic.

As at end of August 2022, across these hospitals, 342 spinal procedures have been undertaken -  100 more surgeries when compared with 242 cases undertaken in the same period last year.

Progress has also been made with reducing the longest waiting times for scoliosis treatment:  

  • Reduction in the number of patients waiting over four months from 99 to 72 (27 per cent reduction since January 2022)
  • Reduction in patients waiting over 12 months for surgery from 34 to 21 (38 per cent reduction since January 2022)
  • The total spinal waiting list has reduced from 224 to 212 in the same period.

*Data period up to 26th Aug 2022.

 A post COVID-19 surge in referrals to hospitals was expected but numbers could not be predicted.

In Crumlin and Temple Street there has been a 33 per cent increase in referral numbers for Spinal Fusions from 2019 to 2022 (164 to 218). Despite this increase in referrals and resulting increase in the numbers on the waiting list, more children are being treated and waiting times are coming down.

Dr Ike Okafor, Clinical Director, Children’s Health Ireland and Clinical Director for the Orthopaedic Service said: “Despite challenges, our staff and clinical teams have made significant progress with plans to improve the Orthopaedic service and continue to do so. 24 additional beds have been added to Crumlin and Temple Street, all of which will be in use by the end of this year. The addition of a 5th theatre when operational in Temple Street will make a significant difference to our theatre activity.

“We really want to acknowledge the phenomenal effort from our specialist teams. For example, in Temple Street last year, one complex spinal surgery was performed per month – we are now averaging one complex surgery per week. This increase in activity requires effort from all disciplines and areas in the hospital - including anaesthesia, critical care, radiology, pathology, nursing, Health and Social Care Professionals, administration and management and not least out highly specialised teams in the Orthopaedic service. We are acutely aware of how delays impact our patients and families and are extremely grateful for the investment and support from Department of Health and the HSE. This investment is making a difference by improving access to care and reducing wait times and we will continue to update on this progress.”

Breakdown of the funding received

  • Funding approved in February/March 2022 total = €19.23m
  • Funding included both one off funding for building work and equipment (€4.18m)
  • And recurrent funding for additional staffing to run services (€15.05m). The funding is primarily for additional staff to undertake more operations to reduce waiting lists for all patients across services, with a particular focus on Scoliosis and Spina Bifida. This means extra theatre capacity, beds and MRI services in CHI

How the extra funding is being utilised across CHI sites since February 2022

 

Challenges

  • Recruitment remains a challenge in some areas as we continue to recruit for the service. As with any Winter, activity can be unpredictable and there may be the need to postpone some elective surgery.
  • Capacity will dictate this and we will continue to work with our advocacy groups, families and patients to ensure they are informed at every point.
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