Department for Economy turns down appeal for support for struggling dentists - the only NHS workers surviving on their savings during the pandemic

The Department for Economy has turned down requests by the British Dental Association (BDA) to subsidise the private side of NI dental practices, some 80 of which are in crisis as they can only treat 20% of their normal level of patients.

Thursday, 26th November 2020, 8:36 am
Updated Friday, 27th November 2020, 12:01 pm

Richard Graham, chair of the BDA’s NI Dental Practice Committee, says that the requirement to leave 30 minutes fallow time for cleaning between each patient has slashed private fees critical to practices’ survival.

“There was a £19.1m of government underspend in dentistry over the last five years and £6.8m last year,” he said.

“The government is producing more NHS funding than ever before, but because dentistry is also funded by private patients there has been a total drop overall in revenue.

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Richard Graham, chair of the BDA’s NI Dental Practice Committee.

“The Department of Economy hasn’t actually come with anything so far for the private end of dentistry, even though we have asked them on a number of occasions.”

However, a spokesman for the Department for the Economy (DfE) said it was not their responsibility.

“The development of funding support schemes to assist businesses and individuals experiencing hardship as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic is a matter for collective Executive agreement – dentistry and other medical professions fall outside the responsibility of DfE,” he said.

“The economy minister remains committed to working with her Executive colleagues to support as many businesses as possible within the funding envelope available.”

A four-month rate holiday has been given to all businesses, he added.

The Department of Health acknowledged “the ongoing uncertainty over the future provision of routine dental care”, adding that it had provided an extra £35m this year to support it.

A Dunmurry dentist has also called on the Stormont government to take a number of steps to save dental practices from pandemic pressures.

Philip McLorinan, owner of Dunmurry Dental Practice, said the Department of Health (DoH) could commit to a financial support scheme to the end of the financial year. The present system of confirming support on a monthly basis is “extremely stressful for practice owners and the staff alike,” he said.

He also called on the DoH to supply all personal protective equipment to dentists as it is “extremely difficult and stressful to source”.

And he said it was “essential” that the Department for the Economy engages with dentistry representatives “urgently” because the private side of dentisty – which is essential in supporting the NHS side – has not been given any pandemic support by the Department of Health.

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