The British Dental Association (BDA) Northern Ireland has called for urgent reform and fair funding to secure the future of Northern Irish health service dentistry.
The association said that it expects an accelerated exodus from the ‘shrinking’ health service if these conditions are not met.
Ciara Gallagher is chair of the British Dental Association’s Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee (NIDPC). She said: ‘Our message to the political parties and the Secretary of State is clear. It’s make or break for health service dentistry in Northern Ireland. An essential service is shrinking through lack of funding, and it is patients who will pay the price.’
Emphasising the discontentment with NHS dentistry, the BDA cited statistics from its latest survey. These suggest that 41% of practice owners and 38% of associate dentists in Northern Ireland would like to leave NHS dentistry as soon as possible.
One of the key issues highlighted by the BDA was the fees that dentists receive for providing NHS care, which it considers to be ‘unviable’. It said: ‘This low margin/high volume model of care, together with mounting costs, have left many practices delivering some health service treatment at a loss.’
The professional body also discussed several factors which it considers to be worsening the financial position of those working in NHS dentistry. These included cuts to the 10% enhanced support awarded in June and a lack of any pay increase despite the recommendation of a 6% uplift in July.
‘The time for reform is now’
Peter May, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, stated that the department accepts the need to do things differently. Responding to the BDA’s comments, he said the department aims ‘to improve access for patients and ensure that the sector is sustainable in the longer term’.
The BDA described itself as compelled to warn against continued inaction from the department. Ciara Gallagher said: ‘Dentists and their teams truly care about the service they provide. It’s time for the Department of Health to show that they do too. The time for talking is over. The time for reform is now.’
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