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​Northern Ireland needs to reconnect oral health with wider health policy to meet growing needs of patients

17 September 2019

BDA Northern Ireland representatives recently met with Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary and the Chief Dental Officer, Simon Reid, and made the case that oral health needs to reconnect with wider health policy, to ensure 'the mouth is put back in the body'. 

Acknowledging the enormous pressure the Health budget is under, we highlighted the difficult situation dentists and the dental services are under. We asked for the growing delays in awarding annual pay uplifts to be addressed and the need to provide extra investment to GDPs as they cope with the cumulative impact of a decade of below-inflation uplifts/rising expenses and pay cuts. 

Mr Pengelly said that we are facing difficult oral health challenges and agreed that there has been a significant reduction in dentists' income over recent years.

We also raised the need to improve oral health outcomes for people in Northern Ireland, particularly in relation to children and the elderly. Northern Ireland is at the bottom of the league table when it comes to children's oral health outcomes in the UK, with 40% of 5-year-olds showing signs of decay, compared to 25% in England.

So too was the need to ensure we have a stronger focus on prevention, if we are serious about making progress on reducing the shocking rate of child GA extractions – Over 4,700 children were admitted to hospital for tooth extractions last year. In 2017/18 dentists extracted  23,035 teeth, of which 89% were baby teeth, mainly taken out due to decay. 

We've also called for significant investment in both CDS and GDS to ensure we can meet the needs of a growing ageing population, and the Department needs to take seriously the fact that according to its own figures, 40% of the CDS workforce in Northern Ireland is due to retire by 2025. 

Chair of NIPDC, Richard Graham, said:

"Northern Ireland is lagging behind the other UK countries when it comes to oral health, and we are challenging the Department of Health to come forward with substantive proposals aimed at putting fresh focus on oral health.

"We need to move forward and address the situation we are currently in and ensure future needs will be met. Intrinsic to this must be the case for additional investment at individual GDP level, as well as additional resources for the Community Dental Services, if we are to ultimately succeed."

We will continue to campaign for dentistry to be a higher priority in health policy and we will raise these issues directly with MLAs and key stakeholders at an Oral Health Matters event, which we are hosting at Stormont on 17 October.

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.