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Northern Ireland: Making the case for continued financial support

Blog Author Tristen Kelso

Blog Date 03/03/2021

How we’re working to get the best deal possible for GDPs in a financially challenging environment.


This week we responded formally to the draft Northern Ireland Budget consultation, making as robust a case as possible for maximum financial support to the GDS to continue into 2021/22. We’ve also continued to lobby for a reformed GDS funding model that better reflects the real costs associated with delivering Health Service dentistry in 2021.


Here’s what you need to know:


Taking action in a challenging environment

Ministers are warning that next year’s budget situation is set to be very challenging, with the Finance Minister saying it effectively represents ‘a standstill of the 2020-21 budget position’. The chairs of Northern Ireland’s Health Trusts have also warned of “significant shortfalls” in the draft Health budget. The Department of Health has highlighted “significant gaps in relation to awarding pay uplifts.”


“We emphasised the severe restrictions which dentists continue to operate under.”

In sharing our consultation response with Department of Finance, the Health Minister, the Assembly Health Committee and MLAs, we emphasised the severe restrictions which dentists continue to operate under. We’ve also made clear the considerable impact this is having on a GDS contract model that is mainly activity-based. We’ve left them in no doubt that continued top-up funding - such as the Financial Support Scheme (FSS) - remains essential for the foreseeable future and must be provided for in a new budget.


A fresh approach is needed for service sustainability

The ever-growing challenges of providing Health Service dentistry was a massive issue even pre-pandemic. So alongside our submission, we included a new policy paper which examines a range of issues that are undermining the sustainability of Health Service dentistry in the GDS. Compiled on behalf of the Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee, this shows the severe erosion of dental earnings due to a remuneration system that fails to adequately address dental inflation.


As well as immediate-term support to keep practices viable, we are highlighting the need for the Department to take a fresh approach to ensure Health Service dentistry is a sustainable and viable service into the future. This is essential as dental and other Health and Social Care Services are rebuilt post-pandemic.


Looking ahead

We are just weeks away from the start of a new financial year, and the introduction of new FSS arrangements. By issuing a stark reminder to key influencers and policy-makers of the immense constraints that GDPs continue to work under, we are seeking to maximise the likelihood of the best possible financial outcome for GDPs in what will be a competitive, and challenging environment.


“We’ve seen some positive developments in recent weeks.”

We’ve seen some positive developments in recent weeks, not least confirmation of the £1.5m patient throughput funding scheme to help practices with ventilation upgrades. But we still need to see the Department of Health’s proposals for FSS3 to provide practitioners the much needed certainty on continued financial support into the financial year ahead.


We will continue to press for more assistance with PPE costs and lobby for a reformed GDS funding model. It was fundamentally broken pre-COVID and it must be changed to better reflect the actual costs associated with delivering Health Service dentistry in 2021. This will be key to helping address the collapse in morale among the general dental workforce.


Tristen Kelso

Tristen Kelso

National Director of BDA Northern Ireland