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Northern Ireland: COVID shows we're stronger together

Blog Author Tristen Kelso

Blog Date 15/10/2020

Tristen Kelso, National Director of BDA Northern Ireland, reflects on how the BDA has been supporting the profession during the pandemic.

 

 

It’s a worrying time in Northern Ireland, as case numbers rise and new restrictions come into force. But while we continue to face very real challenges as a society, I think it’s helpful to reflect on what we’ve managed to achieve as a profession by working together during this pandemic.


The BDA mantra is ‘together we are stronger’ and I think we’ve seen just how true this is over the past eight months. Our priority has been to support dentists in NHS, private and mixed practices to get through this crisis.


Financial support remains essential

"We continue to call for a support package for private dentistry."

Naturally there is a strong financial focus of our work. Ensuring the continued financial viability of dental practices has been crucial, not least as we navigate future Financial Support Scheme (FSS) arrangements, but also as we continue to call for a support package for private dentistry. But so too will be prioritising dentistry in the rebuild of Health and Social Care that will follow this immediate crisis.


BDA NI craft committees have provided first class representation on behalf of the whole profession over these past months. Without those countless hours spent campaigning for mitigation measures to be put in place, critiquing many draft Department of Health (DoH) proposals and highlighting potential pitfalls, while seeking out political support, dentistry would be in a much worse place.


We continue to engage constructively, but robustly, with DoH on future FSS arrangements. We have fought incredibly hard to achieve a position of relative stability, and we will seek to maintain this level of funding as we look to the next phase of support that will be in place until the end of the financial year.

 

Campaigning together for maximum impact

"You have strengthened our hand when negotiating a way forward during this challenging time."

The dental profession in Northern Ireland has rallied during these past 8 months. By sharing your individual concerns and stories directly with MLAs and MPs, you’ve strengthened our campaigns at key moments. We saw this clearly when faced with the existential threat of enhanced PPE costs; we’ve seen it more recently with CDS dentists pressing for clarity on the pay they will receive for working additional hours in Urgent Dental Care Centres during COVID. You have strengthened our hand when negotiating a way forward during this challenging time.


Our Local Dental Committee networks, and their first-class chairs and secretaries, have been selfless in raising individual concerns. They’ve been flagging issues with NIDPC, and ensuring there’s two-way communications with the grassroots. This has informed our work greatly, and gives us added credibility that we speak for the entire profession in our negotiations with DoH.


Tackling stress and burnout

"We are calling for practitioner wellbeing to be a core focus for all government agencies in how they deal with dentists."

This pandemic has had a profound impact on practitioner wellbeing. At a time when morale is extraordinarily low across all crafts of dentistry, we are calling for practitioner wellbeing to be a core focus for all government agencies in how they deal with dentists. This includes DoH taking a compassionate approach to future conditions around future FSS funding, and RQIA in how they carry out inspections. Government should respect that the vast majority of GDPs are working harder than ever to provide the utmost care to their NHS patients in what are extremely difficult conditions.


Thanks in large part to the foresight and concern of your BDA representatives, and notably the work of former BDA President Roz McMullan, a range of supports are freely available to dentists in Northern Ireland. This includes mental health awareness training and access to mental health first aid through the Northern Ireland Medical & Dental Training Agency, contact Amanda.Jackson@hscni.net for more information. Your practice may also benefit from appointing a workplace mental health champion.


Supporting more members than ever

As your professional body, we continue to offer an extensive range of webinars which have proved really popular during the latest restrictions. A new range of excellent online CPD from the BDA Northern Ireland Branch will also be rolling out early next year, more details to follow soon.


Our coronavirus advice pages meanwhile have all of the latest information and resources to support you, and our expert and extra members can reach out for one-to-one advice via phone and email, by calling 020 7935 0875 or via email on advice.enquiries@bda.org.


I’m proud that the voice of dentistry has been heard loud and clear at a time when it counted the most. We have seen what can be achieved when the profession speaks with one voice. I trust the value of BDA membership is clear for all to see, and am delighted that our membership is growing.

 

At this difficult time, I invite you to remember that we are your association, so please do avail of the full range of supports on offer. Let’s also look out for colleagues who may right now be feeling isolated and who could benefit from our support.


Every dentist can find a home in the BDA. We are stronger, together.

 

 

Tristen Kelso
National Director of BDA Northern Ireland