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Return of devolved government: An opportunity to progress dentistry in Northern Ireland

Blog Author Richard Graham

Blog Date 15/01/2020

Photo credit: Getty Images

After three years without local government in Northern Ireland, we are pleased that power-sharing has now been restored, and we are hopeful that much-needed progress can now start to be made for Health Service dentistry.

We’ve written to Robin Swann MLA, the newly appointed Minister for Health in Northern Ireland, outlining the key issues that need addressing to ensure Health Service dentistry is sustainable into the future.

Our letter to Mr Swann puts into context the problem facing us: that Northern Ireland has some of the poorest oral healthcare outcomes in the UK, and we make the case to him for a more ambitious approach to improve oral health, without any further delays.

We have been calling for a new oral health strategy for many years, the last one is based on now-obsolete data from 2003 and isn’t fit for purpose for the oral health needs of the population in 2020, a fact that was recently acknowledged by Westminster’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

We will continue to press for fairer remuneration for dentists and have asked for a guarantee that pay uplifts will be implemented in a timely fashion, and that fees are made sustainable for dental practices across Northern Ireland.

We’ve highlighted the problem of falling morale and motivation in the dental profession and the impact of a decade of pay cuts, estimated at 30% for practice owners and 39% for associates in real terms - our dentists are at a tipping point.

Our increasing concerns about the provision of Community Dental Services have also been put forward, including an increasingly stretched workforce to deliver the care needed for a rapidly ageing population, with up to 40% of the CDS workforce potentially due to retire by 2025.

For too long, our dentists have been left in limbo, waiting on pay uplifts and waiting on new contracts, and appropriate terms and conditions that are fit for dentists working today.

This is an opportunity to restart the conversation about the sustainability of Health Service dentistry in Northern Ireland, aiming for much-needed improvements for our patients, underpinned by adequate funding and resourcing of practitioners.

It is an opportunity we are seizing with both hands, and rest assured, we will continue to make the case for dentistry.

Richard Graham, Chair of the Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee

BDA Northern Ireland

BDA 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.