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News / February 2, 2011

Northern Ireland dental contract piloting

by Guy Hiscott

Piloting of new contractual dental arrangements for Northern Ireland is overdue and must begin promptly, the British Dental Association (BDA) has argued this week.

Submitting its response to the Health and Social Care Board’s consultation on piloting new dental contracts, the BDA said that it believed the proposed personal dental services scheme would meet the objective of testing the proposed arrangements for dentistry and pressed for progress. 

The BDA response also stresses the importance of pilots being allowed to produce a clear picture of both positive and negative implications of the new arrangements against a difficult financial position, and emphasises the need to understand the effect of elements of the contract including payments for patient care, quality and items of service.

The BDA also welcomed the Health and Social Care Board’s acknowledgement that it will be important to pilot revised patient charges prior to the implementation of the definitive new contracts.

While the BDA response also signals its agreement with the proposal to have separate contracts for primary dental care, orthodontics and oral surgery, it highlights that changes in one area of dentistry will impact on another. The ability of practitioners with enhanced training and skills to deliver treatments that might otherwise be unavailable to patients in certain areas is particularly important, the BDA argues.

Peter Crooks, chair of the BDA’s Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee, said: ‘It’s nearly five years since reform was touted. Progress is well overdue. These pilots will take place against a backdrop of financial pressures and will need to take account of the difficult circumstances facing practitioners.

‘Nonetheless, Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee endorses the proposed scheme and looks forward to continuing constructive and meaningful engagement as pilots progress. It is important that these pilots are given the time and resources they need so that their effects can be properly understood and a better future delivered for health service dentistry in Northern Ireland.’