SDLP health spokesman Mark H. Durkan has described as ‘unacceptable’ a health visitor backlog that’s resulted in over 600 children in Derry and across the Western Health and Social Care Trust missing out on their annual reviews.
The Western Trust has assured the public that no child is at risk as a result of the backlog, which is due to be cleared within three months.
However, Mr. Durkan said: “It is unacceptable that almost 700 children have missed out on vital assessments by health visitors at one and two years of age in Derry and across the WHSCT.
“These reviews are vital to ensure key developmental milestones are hit and any potential health issues can be flagged to ensure early intervention. As a father of two young children, I am very aware of the need for reassurance from health visitors that your young child is healthy and happy.”
Responding to concerns, Dr. Bob Brown, WHSCT nursing director, said a plan to address the issue was being implemented.
He said: “The action plan ensures that all of those children, and the number is over 600, will have their review undertaken within a three-month period. The action ensures that health visitors working in another part of the trust will undertake these review clinics and they will do so in such a way that every child will be seen quickly.”
Mr. Durkan said: “Whilst the WHSCT have acknowledged the problem and are trying their best to ensure that the current backlog is being dealt with by holding weekend clinics, the staff shortages that are causing this problem must be addressed immediately.
“Unfortunately, we have experienced high levels of vacancies across the Health Trusts on all levels leading to significantly longer waiting lists. The Department of Health simply cannot continue to function without a Minister in place to implement much needed changes, many of which were highlighted in the Bengoa report.”