Referrals from preschool medical examinations were followed up for two years to assess attendance rate, waiting time for appointment, appropriateness of the referral, the diagnosis and management of the condition. Altogether 184 children were referrals for ophthalmology, 285 for audiology, and 195 for speech therapy. The median waiting time for an appointment was 46 days in ophthalmology, 175 days in audiology, and 83 days in speech therapy. The poorest attendance rate was identified in speech therapy (75%). Approximately 60% of examined children had a justified referral to ophthalmology and 20% had a clear defect. Over half the children in audiology (55%) had an altered impedance or hearing impairment. Of those with a hearing problem kept under review only half improved spontaneously. In speech therapy 80% of those assessed had a language problem. Many health problems were detected for which parents were unaware or did not use the service. Parental awareness alone will not uncover the sizable level of lingual and sensorial problems in inner city areas. This audit identified specific deficiencies in the provision of services and a number of organisational changes are suggested to improve their effectiveness.
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