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News / October 2, 2008

McGimpsey pursues additional dental services in the North

by Guy Hiscott

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has said that a tender to secure additional dental services in Northern Ireland should dramatically reduce access problems for patients by the end of next year.

Speaking during an Assembly debate on 30 September, the Minister said that the consultation process will be completed by the end of next week and, pending the outcome of the evaluation, the tender will be issued shortly after that.

McGimpsey said: ‘I am committed to ensuring that everyone has access to a health service dentist. The tender will allow boards to locate services in areas of greatest access need and contractors will largely undertake just health service work. Most importantly, this tender has the potential to largely eliminate the current access problems experienced by people across Northern Ireland by the end of next year.’

Turning to the range of important measures he had introduced to address the current problems, the Minister said: ‘I have also invested a massive £8 million into health service dentistry.

This funding is intended to help with overhead costs, to improve cross infection control standards, as well as investment into vocational training and funding to health boards to employ salaried dentists.

‘This was the largest investment into health service dentistry in the last 20 years, which is proof of my commitment to tackling the problems faced by both patients and the profession.

‘I have also made funding available for an additional five dental students from August 2008, which now makes Queen’s the largest dental school in Ireland.’

The minister continued: ‘We are also currently developing a bespoke dental contract for Northern Ireland with the British Dental Association. I am happy to say that progress is picking up momentum.

‘When the negotiations are satisfactorily completed, it is proposed to pilot the new arrangements during 2009 as planned, before rolling the new contract out across Northern Ireland. Once the new contract is in place, commissioners will be able to ensure improved access to health service dentistry.

‘Everyone in Northern Ireland should be able to access health service dentistry, no matter where they live and regardless of their circumstances and that is my aim.’