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Northern Ireland: Keeping financial support front and centre

Blog Author Richard Graham

Blog Date 20/01/2021

​Richard Graham, Chair of NI Dental Practice Committee, gives us an insight into progress made on Health Service dentistry campaigns this week.


It’s only three weeks into the New Year and we are working hard to ensure the concerns of dentists and dentistry in Northern Ireland are taken seriously. In fact, this has been a particularly busy week for our Health Service campaigns.


Here’s an overview of some of the work we’ve done this week on Health Service dentistry:


Financial support for GDS

I’m pleased to share that discussions on the future shape of GDS financial support arrangements for after April began in earnest this week. We have invited Michael Donaldson and Michael O’Neill along to Friday’s committee meeting to share their initial thoughts, and we will update members as progress is made.


“We want to avoid any practitioners being unduly penalised.”

Meanwhile, the new Financial Support Scheme arrangements have come into effect for the January-February payment cycle. We’ve been clear it’s very important that conditions are applied fairly in individual cases. We met recently with the Department of Health, Health and Social Care Board and the Business Services Organisation to discuss a range of scenarios where we feel exceptional circumstances should be taken into account.


We want to avoid any practitioners being unduly penalised under the new abatement thresholds linked to activity levels. We also explored the process whereby practitioners can lodge issues, by contacting GDS.Correspondence@hscni.net. We are seeking clarity on a number of important points, and I expect fresh FAQs on financial support to be issued shortly. The Department is also expected to update GDPs soon, and we will provide more information once it is available.


Prepping for the DDRB

This week also saw the finalisation of our written evidence to the 21/22 Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB). This is the culmination of months of work collating pay trend data and working up our arguments for a meaningful pay uplift. This is just one part of an often frustrating and drawn out process but prepping for the DDRB is essential to our work on behalf of GDPs.


“We emphasised how COVID has exacerbated what was already an extremely challenging situation.”

This year, we emphasised how COVID has exacerbated what was already an extremely challenging situation regarding the financial sustainability of Health Service dentistry. Our argument is clear. We need to make up ground on years of pay cuts in real terms, and we’ve emphasised the need to reintroduce commitment payments.


While we await a formal pay offer on the 20/21 DDRB process, Minister Swann has written to the DDRB Chair to confirm he has accepted the DDRB recommendations in full. We are expecting confirmation from Department of Health on a pay uplift for GDPs imminently. The delay is frustrating, but we will update you as soon as we know more.


Looking ahead

I hope this quick overview gives you an insight into the work NIDPC supported by the BDA NI team are doing right now on behalf of Health Service dentistry. The team are also working hard on behalf of the profession and oral health in Northern Ireland more broadly. To keep up to date on all our work, including the tireless work on behalf of private dentists, please visit our Live Updates page or our BDA NI Facebook group.


Richard Graham

Richard Graham

Chair of NI Dental Practice Committee