The Department emailed us in December, advising it is developing investment options for GDS, but that given the current projected financial challenges and political situation, any measures being considered, and subsequent decisions would need to be made by an incoming Minister. Should no Minister be appointed in the coming weeks, then the Department would consider again in the new year.
In our letter, we have stressed that without immediate intervention, the dire situation facing the GDS will accelerate. Failing dental services are being referenced publicly in the context of GP services soon going the same way, as mounting difficulties face NHS services.
Headroom exists to retain at least the 2019/20 spend on GDS in this financial year, and beyond, as an attempt to stabilise services, and provide extra incentive to meet demand. The Business Service Organisation’s own data indicates a significant underspend projected on GDS Item of Service this year, with current fees posing a major disincentive to activity.
We are asking for funding comparable to the pre-pandemic spend to be directed specifically, and in full, to support a deteriorating and ailing GDS rather than being diverted or sidelined into other services.
The GDS is a vital component of healthcare, and we are calling for immediate support to secure its continuation. The profession requires maximum and urgent transparency around the prospects of any immediate assistance so that informed business decisions can be taken. This issue goes to the heart of whether the Department can maintain a General Dental Service in Northern Ireland that is financially sustainable.
BDA Northern Ireland Director, Tristen Kelso, said: “If nothing significant and transformative comes out of the anticipated forthcoming financial package for GDS - both in terms of the pay uplift component - but also the stabilisation/transformation element, Health Service dentistry is finished.”
We are seeking urgent action and maximum clarity on DoH proposals to stabilise GDS.