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Northern Ireland: Pay review process needs a reboot

Blog Author Tristen Kelso

Blog Date 02/09/2020

Tristen Kelso reflects on progress made regarding the pay uplift process in Northern Ireland and points to a way forward.


It’s been clear to dentists in Northern Ireland that the pay review process has been broken for some time. The DDRB is now recognising many of the issues.


The system needs a reboot

We’ve made clear that the delay in implementing pay uplifts in Northern Ireland has a negative impact on dentists, not only in financial terms, but also on dentists’ morale and the credibility of the pay review process.


These concerns have at last been recognised by the current Review Body. These strongly worded extracts written by the Review Body in the July DDRB reportshow their recognition of the need for change:


  • “The delays to the pay award process in Northern Ireland continue to be unacceptable”
  • “The pay award for 2018-19 was only made in November 2019, more than halfway through the following financial year”
  • “We expect pay awards to be made in a timely fashion…this has unfortunately not been happening in Northern Ireland for some time.”


This week we start another cycle of considering the BDA written submission to the 2021/22 process, at a time when we have only recently received the pay uplift for 2019/20, and continue to await a decision on 2020/21. As DDRB has recognised, such inbuilt delay is wholly unacceptable. That’s why, we will continue to lobby our Executive for a major reboot to this system. Dentists in Northern Ireland deserve a pay review process which is fit for purpose.


Progress is being made

"The review body has also recognised the 'worrying trend' in associate earnings, which have been going down since 2010-11."

The review body has also recognised the “worrying trend” in associate earnings, which have been going down since 2010-11. They have also recognised that overall earnings are not keeping pace with DDRB recommendations for NHS earnings. The latest DDRB Report also reflected the low level of morale in Northern Ireland, and how dentists often feel less valued by employers, governments and society as a whole than they had previously.


Of course this year’s DDRB cycle is very much overshadowed by the impact of COVID, and we will be seeking to ensure this is adequately taken into account by the Review Body. But even pre-COVID, stress in the profession was a significant issue, as shown in the last report. It’s important to see these issues finally being recognised.


We have requested that in future surveys, data is captured separately for CDS dentists to give us a clearer picture of the issues affecting our salaried colleagues. In our evidence session to the NI Assembly Health Committee in March, we emphasised need for the long awaited CDS Workforce Review to be carried out without further delay.


Looking ahead

We have the opportunity now to build on the progress we’ve made. Our concerted efforts to demonstrate the issues within dentistry - around pay, morale, stress and delays in the process - have been recognised by the Review Body.


Looking ahead to this year’s submission, we aim to build on this, to continue to press for a reboot by DoH for timely pay uplifts, and a reversal of a policy of below-inflation uplifts and cuts, not least for how exposed this has left practices when faced with the current pandemic.



Tristen Kelso
BDA Northern Ireland Director