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News / April 4, 2019

Reallocation of NI GDS underspend ‘putting Health Service dentistry at risk’

by Siobhan Hiscott

BDA Northern Ireland has hit back at the Health and Social Care Board (HSBC) on its recent decision to reallocate £7.7m of underspend away from the GDS budget to ‘other budgets’.

In a letter to Dr Ian Clements, chair of HSCB, the chair of the BDA Northern Ireland dental practice committee, Richard Graham, challenged the rationale provided by finance personnel to the HSCB’s board of directors for the GDS underspend.

Richard said: ‘GDPs are under incredible financial pressure, having seen taxable income decimated after eight years of increased costs and constrained fee uplifts, as well as pay cuts. Advising board members the GDS budget is reducing because individuals are now “choosing to be treated privately”, and that this won’t have any real impact because “we don’t have access issues” simply won’t wash.

‘It’s not just the livelihoods of GDPs that suffers. The HSCB has also been put on notice that reallocating funds away from dentistry is contrary to the extra investment we need to see in addressing our poor oral health and huge level of unmet need, not least among the elderly population living in care home settings.

‘By attending the February board meeting in person, we had an opportunity to voice our concerns directly with the HSCB Chair, and to board members.

‘Our message to the HSCB and to the Department of Health at this time is that their actions – and inactions – are putting Health Service dentistry at considerable risk. Removing commitment payments worth over £3m to GDPs a year, and failing to adequately address the rising costs of delivering HS dentistry with capped fee uplifts, plus a prior approval limit that’s remained static for a decade has resulted in a fee structure that isn’t fit for purpose.’