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DDRB expenses injustice

We conveyed our alarm to the Minister for Health, Robin Swann, that while the DDRB recommended uplift is being applied as a 4.5% uplift to the Statement of Dental Remuneration (SDR), no assessment of the soaring costs to provide care has been made.

The DDRB recommendation is in respect of pay whereas the expenses element is intended to be addressed separately by government – as outlined in the DDRB 50th Report which states that:

"10.56 We (the DDRB) stopped making recommendations on expenses in 2015, and instead expect that expenses uplifts will be agreed between the BDA and the governments as part of annual contract negotiations. Expenses uplifts must address issues such as increased operating and practice staff costs, which fall under practice expenses."

A negotiation regarding expenses has not happened and a flat 4.5% on the SDR takes no account of the considerable rise in expenses.

The Dental Practice Committee's (DPC) minimum expectation was that the formula which has been applied for General Dental Service in previous years would be used, thus generating an increase of 5.83%. This in itself would have been wholly deficient. More realistically, the DPC had anticipated that its considerable evidence on rising costs would have been taken into account when setting the revised fees for the SDR.

We have sought clarification on the reasoning behind the change to normal expected procedure and an explanation of the methodology applied to determine the expenses component as the 4.5% which is counter to what was expressed in this year's DDRB Report.

DDRB places the responsibility firmly with government to address the expenses element of the annual uplift. To assist with this process, we wrote in July this year highlighting our concerns and providing significant evidence on the costs of providing dental care. Everything we have presented demonstrates that, due to the time taken and the costs incurred to deliver quality care, NHS dentistry is not a viable business.

This latest decision of 4.5% transports a government funding crisis to a practice funding crisis. It will push NHS practices further into the red, push dentists away from the NHS and actively repel new graduates. It is another acceleration in the decimation of NHS dentistry.

We ask on behalf of NHS dental practitioners and the NHS patients who depend on them for care that the Department and its officials urgently review the decision on this matter, and address the overdue timeline.