Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Disability Margaret Murphy O’Mahony says the Disability Minister Finian McGrath needs to set targets to ensure that waiting lists for speech and language assessment and therapy are reduced.

She made the call after receiving new figures from the HSE which reveal that 34,439 people are on a waiting list for either an initial assessment, initial therapy or further therapy.

Deputy Murphy O’Mahony explained, “These figures, while showing minor improvements, are shocking and illustrate the seriousness of the crises within our health service. The fact that there are over 13,500 people waiting for an initial assessment is particularly worrying, especially as almost 800 of them will be waiting over a year to be seen.

“These waiting times fly in the face of best practice. It is deeply frustrating for people to be told that they will have to wait months, or even years, before they will be assessed for an essential service. Any delay in assessment will lead to delays in treatment and this could have a detrimental impact on outcomes.

“The government boasted that it had secured the biggest budget on record for the health service for 2019. While this may be the case, we need to see this money used effectively and cutting waiting lists should be a priority. We need to ensure that staffing levels are brought up to what is necessary and that vacant posts are filled in a timely manner. The policy of leaving posts vacant for months or years has to end.

“Minister McGrath must put all his energy into his own portfolio rather than deviating into Justice issues. This policy has not worked well for Minister Shane Ross and it does not become Minister McGrath either. I am urging him to take responsibility for these appalling lists and implement a strategy to ensure that they are dramatically reduced”, concluded Deputy Murphy O’Mahony.