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A way forward on dental workforce issues

We highlighted the factors behind alarmingly low levels of morale within the CDS workforce and repeated the case for a workforce review at the Northern Ireland Joint Negotiating Forum this week.

Our research shows that job dissatisfaction within the CDS fell by 63% on the previous year. 92% of CDS dentists are concerned at the long waiting lists/backlogs of care and the impact of the pandemic is pushing many in the CDS towards early retirement.

In 2018, the Department of Health (DoH) recognised that 40% of CDS dentists would be approaching retirement by 2025 and made provision for a CDS workforce review. This review has still not taken place. The Skills for Health Dental Workforce Review also concluded in 2018. This was a major report on the future needs of the entire dental workforce, but has never been published.

Without proper workforce planning, the CDS risks loss of expertise, mentoring and institutional memory. This will impact negatively on the future of the service.

At our meeting with the Director of Workforce Policy at DoH, CDO and other officials representing DoH and the Trusts, we emphasised the difficult environment CDS dentists are working in, the widespread sense of burnout and the need for long-awaited reforms to be urgently taken forward.

The Department has responded with a commitment to moving forward on dental workforce planning. A refreshed Dental Workforce Review will be progressed in the coming months. This will ensure dentistry’s needs are represented in the high-level workforce strategy which will be published shortly. The CDO has also committed to reviewing the CDS workforce specifically.

Following years of stagnation, we are hopeful we will see much needed movement on these important issues, a precursor to improving the working lives of dedicated dental professionals.

Other items addressed included:

  • New Conscious Sedation Guidance to be issued in the coming months
  • Provision for Foundation Dentists (FDs) to gain experience working in the CDS
  • Encouraging staff to access their annual training budgets
  • Access to Trust funds earmarked for staff wellbeing.

We will continue to update you on these important issues and campaign on your behalf.