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News / February 19, 2009

Board gives dentists green light to pick and choose patients

by Guy Hiscott

As reported in the Fermanagh Herald, Northern Ireland’s Western Health and Social Services Board has confirmed that dentists do not have to treat under-age patients or those on Income Support as NHS patients.

Prior to this statement, a reader of the newspaper had complained that she had tried to find an NHS dentist to treat her 12-year-old son without success.

As a result of this highlighted case, a spokeswoman for the Western Health Board explained that dentists were under no obligation to provide dental care to under-age children.

She said: ‘Technically, they [dentists] can do so, but they don’t have to. There are categories for free or partially free treatment, but they don’t have to provide this. They can decide to provide the treatment but, at the end of the day, be it a 12-year-old or someone on tax credit, they can still say: “I am not prepared to do free treatment”.’

However, the spokeswoman went on to reveal that an announcement would be made soon about the tendering process for NHS dentists, probably at the end of March.

The spokeswoman commented: ‘We would be hopeful of getting new surgeries and we would be quite confident we will get new surgeries opened, but we cannot estimate when that will be until we get the tenders in.’