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Child-specific waiting lists should be published for all healthcare services in Ireland, urges the just published Ombudsman for Children’s report “Waiting for Scoliosis: A Children’s Rights Issue”

National Standards of Practice, specific to respecting children’s rights within health services, should be developed and implemented. The report recommends targets for maximum waiting times for out-patient appointments should be established – and reports which monitor these targets should be published quarterly. Moreover, the report urges the government to develop and implement a comprehensive and broadly-based national policy framework on child-friendly healthcare, taking account of international and European best practice and human rights standards.

The scoliosis report highlights “lived experiences of this vulnerable group of children over the last decade illustrate how the lack of adequate government action has led to consistent breaches of their right to health”.It states that many children with scoliosis in Ireland have been denied orthopaedic spinal surgery for up to 18 months because of factors that range from a lack of resources and operational capacity, to a lack of availability of anaesthetists, theatre nurses, and funding from the HSE.

“The realisation of the right to health of children waiting for scoliosis paediatric orthopaedic surgery should be prioritised by government action as a matter of urgency. No child with scoliosis should have to wait in excess of four months from when the need for surgery is clinically determined. This is in accordance with Government commitments recently made and in line with international best practice. Barriers to achieving this should be reviewed and eliminated,” adds the report. Furthermore, the Ombudsman’s report recommends the Department of Health should commission and publish a situational analysis of existing practices, issues and infrastructure for the delivery of paediatric scoliosis surgery services in Ireland.This situational analysis should: Assess the institutional capacity and the availability of human, financial, and technical resources. Specific deficits in resources should be identified.

Carry out a clinical review of services and set national and regional priorities for the treatment and aftercare of scoliosis and strategies for their achievement. Budgeted action plans and operational strategies should be established and published with specific timeframes.