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News / May 8, 2008

Dentistry in the North to be put out to tender

by Guy Hiscott

Following an Assembly debate on the shortage of NHS dentists in Northern Ireland, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey announced that private dentists are to be invited to tender for a large-scale contract to provide dental services to NHS patients.

Mr McGimpsey said the idea had worked elsewhere, stating: ‘Everyone in Northern Ireland should be able to access health service dentistry, no matter where they live and regardless of their circumstances, and that is my aim.’

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson said: ‘During an Assembly debate on the lack of NHS dental care… the Minister confirmed that he is in contact with the professional dentist association and is hoping to secure some form of agreement whereby dentists would agree to a contractual obligation devoting a certain section of their time to NHS work.’

The contract will require new legislation before it can be set up, but it is hoped a pilot scheme could begin next year.

Speaking to the Derry Journal, Claudette Christie, director of the British Dental Association, Northern Ireland, said that there are not enough dentists in the north-west.

‘This is as frustrating for dentists as it is for patients, and dentists are doing all they can to help their existing NHS patients,’ she said. ‘The Government has recognised that there are issues but it needs to do more to support existing dental practices to expand and give patients the NHS dental service they expect.’