HSE Orthodontics Waiting Lists in Ireland 2014
HSE orthodontic waiting lists have grown 19% longer.
Regular readers of my blog will know I occasionally give updates on HSE Orthodontics waiting lists. These figures are in the public domain, but not easily found unless you look for them, so that’s why I share them from time to time with a wider audience. I have recently found out new figures which I’ll present in today’s blog. These figures are the most up to date I can find and relate to the second quarter of 2014.
Just to recap, the HSE (Health Service Executive) will provide free orthodontic treatment to children under 16 if they have an orthodontic problem that is deemed to be a risk to their dental health.
If a dentist examines a child and feels that the child might have this kind of orthodontic problem, they can refer them to the HSE Orthodontic Service, and the child will be assessed by a HSE orthodontist who is trained (we call that “calibrated”) to assess these problems and decide if the problem is severe enough. The HSE uses a system based on the Index of Orthodontic Treatment Needs. It involves a score of 1 to 5, and grade 4 and 5 are eligible for treatment.
You can read more about this in my eBook “Children’s Orthodontics in Ireland”.
There may be a period of waiting before this assessment is performed, depending on how many patients need assessed and how many orthodontists are available to do the assessments. This is sometimes referred to as “waiting to get on to the waiting list”.
Waiting time for assessment
1 - 6 months
7 - 12 months
13 - 24 months
24 months and over
HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster
HSE Dublin North East
If the child’s orthodontic problem is not severe enough to qualify for HSE treatment, then they will be advised of this and their family can still seek private orthodontic treatment for them if they want.
If the patient is eligible for treatment, they will be placed on a “treatment waiting list”.
Waiting time from assessment to commencementof treatment
Over 48 months
HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster
HSE Dublin North East
What do the lists tell us?
The publication of the waiting times for assessment seems to be a new development, and it tells us that when a child was referred to the HSE for an orthodontic assessment last summer, there is a reasonable chance they were seen within 12 months, and 80% would be seen within 6 months. How long it will be before they receive treatment is pretty difficult to predict.
As always, these lists are given without making a distinction between whether they are a reflection on what has happened up to now (in other words, how long people have waited) or what will happen in the future (in other words, how long they will wait). Given the numbers it is reasonable to assume that these figures are retrospective, but still a bit confusing.
- There isn’t clarity as to whether they refer to children now in treatment and how long they waited for treatment to begin (in which case they aren’t actually “waiting lists”). If you read it in conjunction with the 2013 waiting lists, it’s difficult to explain why someone comes off the list after 6 months, while someone else comes off after 12 months, and there were still people waiting more than 4 years.
- On the other hand, they might refer to patients actually now on a waiting list, in which case it isn’t explained how the HSE knows when treatment will begin for them. You can tell someone they have been on a list for one year and the people coming off the list this month were there for two years, or you can tell someone that they are 100 places from the top of the list, but you can’t actually give them a certain day when they will get to the top of the list as that depends on many things that are difficult to calculate.
- The second list, described as “Waiting time from assessment to commencement of treatment” would make more sense if it was titled “length of time on waiting list” which isn’t exactly the same thing. But it explains the figures, and it is actually the easiest thing to compile.
Also, the lists group together people waiting 2 to 4 years, whereas this was previously broken down as “2-3 years” and “over 4 years”.
….and one final observation:
Last year, these figures were divided up into different categories of severity (Grade 4 and Grade 5), but this year they are combined.
This combined figure last year was 13,864. This year it was 16,518. That’s an increase of 19%, about 3000 children, which is almost the equivalent of adding another 7 southern counties to the country. Whatever the confusion about the way the HSE orthodontic waiting list is described and compiled, it is clearly getting longer.