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Update on key issues

As we near the end of the current Assembly mandate, we're working harder than ever for you. Central to this is ensuring dentistry's voice is heard across the busy programme of Health and Social Care (HSC) reform and highlighting the continued challenges we're facing as a profession.

Our letter to the Minister - co-signed by 500 practitioners - has left the department in no doubt about the importance of getting on with the job of reforming the GDS contract to make HS dentistry financially viable. The need to end the downward trajectory and make Health Service dentistry an attractive option was reinforced again on Friday at the second meeting of the GDS Rebuilding Stakeholder Group.

Recently, we secured some important wins, such as the inclusion of an oral health section in the newly launched 10-year Northern Ireland Cancer Strategy, which is out for public consultation. This was the culmination of extensive engagement work with key partners behind the scenes. It's just one example of how our determination to turn the tide on dentistry being overlooked is achieving results.

One aspect of the major HSC reform agenda - the closure of the Health and Social Care Board - will see provision for a new Family Practitioners Service (FPS) Independent Appeal process. This is also out for consultation. We believe practitioners should be able to independently appeal any decisions that have profound implications for them individually, such as in the case of FSS emergency funding arrangements. Our consultation response will seek to widen the proposed scope of the new Independent Appeal process to extend to the full range of decisions that are taken by BSO, GDOS/DoH and NIMDTA. This should not be confined to challenging HSCB disciplinary decisions or access to the dental list.

Over past weeks, we have also been engaging on dental workforce issues. COVID has exacerbated the shortage of dental nurses and created new challenges in finding associates. Current and future workforce needs within the profession require a plan. That's why we've already met with the lead DoH official who will be taking forward Phase 2 of the Health and Social Care Workforce Strategy, and we will be actively involved in this space going forward.

The coming months will also see some new faces involved in the work to move dentistry forward. A recruitment exercise for a new Chief Dental Officer for Northern Ireland is underway. A new BDA election cycle will shortly begin to elect your new committee representatives. Meanwhile, our politicians are already in election mode ahead of next May's Assembly elections. We'll keep you up-to-date on the issues that matter to you.

Together, we all have a part to play in the rebuild of dentistry.