A British Dental Association (BDA) delegation met yesterday with Northern Ireland's Health Minister Robin Swann to discuss a number of pressing issues facing the dental profession following the impact of COVID-19.
Key issues on the agenda included: the financial pressures on dental practices following the impact of COVID-19 and the need for adequate continued support from the Department of Health going forward; access to central Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply for general dental practices; and thirdly, ensuring dentistry is prioritised in the rebuilding of Health and Social Care (HSC) services.
Richard Graham, Chair of the Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee said:
“We are grateful to the Minister for meeting with us and listening to the significant concerns that exist within dentistry at this time. For the first time in a very long time, a Health Minister has acknowledged the importance of oral health to general health, and has committed to ensuring dental services will be an integral part of rebuilding HSC Services. The Minister has also recognised the enormous contribution of the dental profession in stepping up and playing a leading role in the battle against COVID-19”.
On PPE, the Department of Health has confirmed dental practices will have access to central PPE supplies. BSO is expected to commence deliveries of PPE to dental practices within the next 10-14 days.
Richard Graham added:
“We welcome this additional step forward on PPE. However, with the date for aerosol-generating procedures set to resume from 20 July, there is further clarity needed to ensure that higher grade PPE will be included in this initiative so that Health Service patients can be treated accordingly”.
On prioritisation of dentistry going forward, the Minister has said BDA comments calling for dentistry to be represented by the Acting Chief Dental Officer on the new Management Board will form part of his deliberations going forward.
Richard Graham said:
“The level of anxiety among the dental profession at this time is extremely high. We welcome this useful, constructive engagement with the Minister, and the steps he has taken to support the profession at this time.
"However, this is only the start of a process to rebuild General Dental Services, not the end. The BDA is committed to continuing to work with the Department of Health and Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) officials to that end, not least to give the profession a voice of what the remuneration model will look like after August.
"We have cleared the air on previous legacy issues; now, the hard work must be done together -by the profession, with Department of Health and HSCB if we are to find meaningful solutions to safeguard a future for dental practices, and Health Service dentistry."