On 6 March at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, Minister for Health, Mary Harney, suggested that the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) could be used to fund orthodontic treatment for patients in some parts of Ireland where there are very long waiting lists.
Questioned about using the Fund by Fianna Fàil Deputy Niall Blaney, Minister Harney responded: ‘With regard to orthodontic treatment, a review of dental treatment is under way and will be completed in the summer. Hopefully, it will be an innovative policy review.
‘In the early days of the National Treatment Purchase Fund some orthodontic work was carried out. I am open to that if possible. However, the problem with orthodontic work is that it is ongoing and not a once-off procedure. The role of the fund is to provide for a procedure and a follow-up appointment.
‘The fund is not geared up to provide ongoing treatment. However, in specific cases and in some regions of the country where there are particularly long waiting lists, we may be able to use the fund to deal with some issues. I intend to discuss that matter with my officials and with the fund administrators.’
As detailed in the latest Report on the Orthodontic Service in Ireland, published in December 2006, 6,577 patients were waiting for assessment while 10,025 remained on the treatment waiting list.
Last year, according to the Irish Times, internal documents drawn up by the Department of Health for ministers estimated that it would cost €4.5 million between 2007 and 2009 if the orthodontic waiting lists were to be tackled via the NTPF.