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News / January 31, 2024

Hundreds of dentists call to save ‘crumbling’ dental service

by Lucy Veal

Hundreds of dentists call to save 'crumbling' dental service

‘We cannot go on as we are’: More than 700 dentists in Northern Ireland have warned that urgent, radical action is needed to save health service dentistry from a ‘death spiral’.

In an open letter to Peter May, Department of Health permanent secretary, the signatories have asked what the department’s plan is to ensure the dental service has a future.

They also warn of the impact following the EU ban on dental amalgam, which Northern Ireland is expected to phase out from January 2025. The signatories claim this ban ‘represents an existential threat to NHS dentistry’.

The letter also states that the financial situation of health service dentistry is unsustainable. In addition, they believe dental professionals will be driven out of the dental service in the absence of payment reform proposals.

As a result, the signatories have urged the Department of Health to follow the lead of the Scottish government which recently reformed dental payments.

The open letter is backed by the majority of Northern Ireland’s high street dentists, according to the British Dental Association (BDA).

‘Intolerable pressure’

Part of the letter states: ‘Our signatures are testament to the intolerable pressure which this service is under. We cannot go on as we are. We need your department to show leadership and take action now.

‘Evidence shows that the move away from health service dentistry is well and truly underway. In the continued absence of payment reform proposals colleagues will be increasingly driven out of health service dentistry to keep their practices afloat.

‘We are passionate about maintaining a future for health service dentistry and we want to continue providing access to these vital services for our patients. But this now hinges on you acting urgently in the public interest and investing to stabilise and reform the service.

‘Continued inaction will result in significant detriment to the provision of this vital public service. We cannot wait on if or when politicians decide they want to restore a devolved assembly and executive.’

Read the full open letter here.

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