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GDS FSS funding confirmed until end of financial year

The Department of Health has publicised details of upcoming changes to the GDS Financial Support Scheme (FSS) in Northern Ireland.

These changes will see patient contributions and abatement funding continue until the end of the financial year with the most noteworthy change being the new link between a GDP’s monthly FSS payment and their monthly Item of Service (IoS) earnings.

It’s been confirmed that:

  • Nothing will change for the majority of GDPs, who are currently earning 15% or more of their average 2019/20 monthly IoS earnings. They will continue to receive 100% of their FSS payment
  • GDPs earning less than 15% will see an abatement applied
  • Those earning between 10% and 15% will receive 90% of their FSS payment
  • Those earning less than 10% will receive 80% of their FSS payment
  • Meanwhile, GDPs earning less than 1% will receive no FSS payment at all, unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated
  • And from the February-March payment cycle, those earning between 1% and 5% will see their FSS payments cut by 50%.

We’re asking for you to fill in this short survey, to help us ascertain how many GDPs believe they will struggle to hit the 15% earnings threshold and why – PPE costs, insufficient surgery time, insufficient dental staff etc.

The Department has been keen to link FSS payments with Item of Service earnings for some time. Since May, we have responded robustly to over seven different sets of funding proposals.

We insisted that any earnings thresholds should be introduced at the right time, be achievable and result in no unintended consequences for patients. We also insisted that GDS funding levels – particularly support for lost patient charge income - remain unchanged until the end of this financial year.

These robust negotiations have resulted in the current FSS arrangements continuing. Successful funding bids, including an extra £5m secured by Department of Health, have enabled funding to remain to the end of the financial year.

The new threshold is workable for the majority, however the Department of Health has accepted that there will be some GDPs who, through no fault of their own, may be unable to achieve the new thresholds.

In January, we will feed into discussions with the Department to establish an agreed understanding of what constitutes exceptional circumstances, and how such cases should be approached by the Health and Social Care Board/ Business Services Organisation.

The more evidence we have for these discussions the better, so please take five minutes to fill in this short survey linked above to give us as in depth a response as possible, on PPE costs, insufficient surgery time, insufficient dental staff etc.

We are also already looking ahead to GDS financial support arrangements that will apply from April onwards. Despite the roll-out of the COVID vaccination, it’s likely that COVID-19 will continue to adversely impact patient throughput and PPE costs for some time. If that’s the case, then the Department must commit to providing continued financial support to the GDS well into the next financial year.

Longer-term, we are pressing for the Department to address those underlying issues that make the current GDS contract unsustainable. Health Service dentistry must be a financially viable proposition in its own right. We will update you when more information is available.

We also continue to raise awareness of the patient impact of the Department for the Economy’s lack of financial support for private dentistry – this was highlighted again in a recent interview for the BBC News NI Website.