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News / February 10, 2009

Alarm raised following dentist recruitment failure

by Guy Hiscott

SDLP Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Tommy Gallagher has spoken of his alarm after learning that a £4m drive to recruit salaried NHS dentists has only managed to employ four people.

Mr Gallagher, who sits on the Assembly’s Health Committee, said provision is most needed in the west but that all four new dentists had been hired by the Northern Trust, something that was revealed to him in an answer from the Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey.

Mr Gallagher said: ‘In rural areas and west of the Bann there is an appalling lack of access to NHS dentists.’

Back in September 2007, the Health Minister announced a £4.4m package to tackle the crisis and recruit dentists on salaries of more than £50,000.

Commenting on the developments in the following 18 months, Mr Maguire said: ‘It is a matter of great concern that almost a year-and-a-half later only four salaried dentists have been recruited, and all of these by the Northern Trust. In areas where the need is at its most acute, such as Fermanagh and parts of Tyrone, the plight of patients is now desperate.

‘I am not reassured by the Minister’s answer that his department is taking steps to recruit 38 additional dentists in regions where provision is scarce.’

Moving forwards, Mr Maguire would like to see a number of measures in place, such as a proper investment strategy that makes practice ownership more attractive. He also believes that funding directed towards training must ensure graduate dentists have places available to them to work in Northern Ireland, where they can help to alleviate the shortage.