It has been a busy year for the BDA in Northern Ireland. Your representatives and BDA staff members have been working hard on your behalf. Unfortunately, the Health Service in Northern Ireland has been paralysed by the lack of a functioning executive government, and the reluctance of the civil service to implement the necessary remedies, which they see as political decisions.
So, we are a little left in limbo, but we have still been working to make the case for dentistry in Northern Ireland. Our Oral Health Matters summit in Stormont in November brought together key stakeholders to discuss what needs to happen to move the agenda forward on improving the oral health of people in Northern Ireland.
We have given evidence to Government's pay review body (DDRB, both in London and at a recent meeting in Belfast, highlighting the problems for dentists working both within the GDS and the CDS in Northern Ireland. Our dentists continue to await a determination being made on their 2019/20 pay uplift, following the DDRB recommendation of 2.5% made in July and this is something we will continue to push for.
We attended a meeting of the Health and Social Care Board to refute the suggestion that the underspend in the GDS budget was simply due to patients choosing to be treated privately.
We have met with the GDC, the permanent secretary and Health and Social Care Board and Departmental officials, to highlight the ongoing crisis in NHS Dentistry in Northern Ireland.
We have said our workforce is at breaking point and it cannot continue.
Regulation has also been a key issue on our agenda, and during this year, we have been meeting with representatives from Probity and the RQIA, to highlight how stressful some practitioners find their processes, with a view to making them more user-friendly.
We keep making the case for the regulatory burden to be lessened to help reduce the stress levels that are being felt in General Practice. Stress is an issue the BDA is campaigning tirelessly for on a national level, spearheaded by Roz McMullan, the BDA's current President. In October, we welcomed the launch by HSCB of the General Dental Services Assistance Programme, a free-24 hour telephone counselling and face to face counselling service for GDS contracted dentists.
This is on top of the new confidential counselling service offered to BDA members in partnership with Health Assured.
Our priorities for dentists remain the same. Recommendations from the DDRB must be implemented in full, in a timely manner; year long delays are not acceptable. Commitment payments must be re-instated to ensure the sustainability of the General Dental Services. Quality Improvement Grants should be made a permanent feature of GDS funding.
Next year must be the year when tangible solutions are brought forward, aimed at making Health Service dentistry sustainable. We'd like to thank all our members too, by being a part of the BDA, you are helping to make our voice stronger. We look forward to continuing to work with you in 2020.
Richard Graham, Chair
Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee
BDA Northern IrelandBDA Northern Ireland supports, represents and promotes, the interests of all dentists working in Northern Ireland. Working with elected committee members, we negotiate on behalf of the profession on terms and conditions, pay and contracts. Join us.