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A step closer to reinstating Out of Hours provision

Reinstating the much needed Out of Hours provision in Northern Ireland has been one of our highest priorities.

The withdrawal of Out of Hours cover at weekends and public holidays has had a massive impact on GDP work-life balance and morale since Emergency Dental Clinic’s (EDCs) were stood down at the start of the pandemic.

Michael Donaldson’s recent letter to GDPs inviting expressions of interest to sign up to EDC rotas will come as a relief, particularly for those practitioners who have been ‘on-call’ over the past two years with little outside support. We welcome these important steps, but it is vital that EDCs are up and running as quickly as possible ahead of the approaching summer period.

Extensive work has been carried out behind the scenes to get us to this point. The LDCs spent time contributing to a review undertaken with Hall Graham. Others worked to secure suitable sites for clinics, and the triage and booking systems that will apply. Throughout the process NIDPC and our CDO ensured this issue was kept top of mind so that this vital service would be reinstated.

There are still a number of important unresolved matters relating to the Out of Hours service. The new sites in this first wave will only be located in Belfast, South Eastern, Southern and Northern LCG areas – with no provision identified in the West. It is important that Western GDPs, via their LDC, take up the offer to engage with the Strategic Planning and Performance Group (formerly HSCB) around what provision they wish to see in place going forward.

The particularly low rate of remuneration for GDPs who do sign up to rotas is also a cause for concern and is something we will look to highlight in new contract negotiations.

Having Out of Hours cover reinstated is another massively important step forward as we emerge out of the pandemic.

And finally, a reminder that all practitioners are being asked to respond to this expression of interest survey by Thursday 26 May.