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Dentists in NI have spoken: Real reform won’t wait

Dentists across Northern Ireland have spoken with one voice: officials are asleep at the wheel, and Health Service dentistry is caught in a death spiral without radical action.


In an open letter, backed by the overwhelming majority of NI’s high street dentists, signatories have joined us to warn DoH Permanent Secretary Peter May that a combination of the looming ban on dental amalgam, paralysis at Stormont freezing health budgets and a financially unviable contractual framework could doom the service.

Northern Ireland looks set to be subject to the EU ban on dental amalgam from 1 January 2025, with practices braced for a huge hit from increased costs and time pressures from the shift to alternative materials. A broken, underfunded item of service model has already seen practices delivering some treatments at a financial loss, fuelling an exodus to the private sector.

Over 700 high street dentists signed up to tell the authorities the financial situation facing HS dentistry is now unsustainable, and that continued inaction by authorities is no longer an option. It’s time for officials to follow the lead of the Scottish Government, who rolled out wide ranging changes to a similar contractual framework in November. The Department of Health needs to reinvest the significant underspend projected for this year’s dental budget to aid struggling practices, who are unable to deliver pre-pandemic levels of activity.

We understand that spend on HS dentistry will be more than £10m below ‘normal’ levels, not because of any lack of demand, but because of capacity issues at struggling practices.

Vital public services are at stake. Livelihoods hang in the balance. Now the imminent ban on dental amalgam represents an existential threat to NHS dentistry.

In Strasbourg, MEPs backed amendments calling on member states to support practices with the added costs of alternative materials, and to reduce the clear impact this will have on the patients who need us most. We require the Department to do no less.

News comes as it looks like the Stormont Government may finally return. And thanks to our members dentistry will top of the agenda for a new minister.

This isn’t a matter of the Department finally delivering a late pay rise this year. We need to know what the authorities intend to do to fix the crumbling foundations this service is built on.

Representing you

As a professional body and trade union, our duty is to serve the needs of our members. We believe that together we can achieve more than we could individually.