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Rebuilding General Dental Services

While FSS support has provided a much-needed lifeline to GDPs over the past year, the short-term nature of the various scheme iterations has resulted in considerable uncertainty. Practitioners have only been able to see a few months ahead at a time.

In aiming to tackle this intolerable uncertainty, in the past week we have written to DoH to seek clarity on Q2-Q4 FSS arrangements. Our preferred approach would be for current FSS arrangements to be retained for the remainder of the financial year. We have also formally requested that a working group be established as soon as possible to begin the important work needed to produce future GDS contractual arrangements from 2022 on.

In the immediate term, PPE continues to be an important factor, not least in the absence of any tangible signs of a relaxation of enhanced PPE requirements. We understand the department is working on proposals aimed at more closely aligning PPE funding with actual activity levels and have requested urgent sight of these proposals.

Richard Graham, Chair of the Northern Ireland General Dental Practice Committee, said:

"Simply reverting to the pre-Covid GDS contract model based on high patient throughput, and increasingly low margins is wholly unrealistic, if not undesirable. The GDS contract had become financially unsustainable pre-Covid; the pandemic has been a gamechanger.

"The GDS needs a total rebuild if Health Service dentistry is to be a financially viable option for practitioners, and in ensuring access to NHS dentistry can continue going forward."

A year on, the vital work to rebuild and reimagine General Dental Services must begin in earnest.