The British Dental Association (BDA) has accused the Northern Ireland Assembly of “backtracking” on an agreement to modernise the contracts of community dentists who serve the most vulnerable patients.
The Community Dental Service provides dental care for people of all ages including children and adults with learning disabilities, patients with health problems, phobias, and those unable to leave their homes.
According to the BDA, community dentists are the only health service workers in the UK not to have had their terms and conditions modernised since the 1980s.
In March 2016 a majority of dentists voted in an official ballot to support an agreement reached between the BDA and Stormont on a new contract, following years of negotiation.
A BDA spokesperson said that while funding was set aside by the Department of Health in early 2016 and allocated to local trusts, the Department of Finance has since claimed no agreement has been reached.
Grainne Quinn, chair of the BDA’s Northern Ireland Salaried Dentists Committee, said: “Last year we reached an agreement to bring their terms and conditions into the 21st century, but ever since ministers and officials have been stalling.
“All we are asking for is for ministers to honour an agreement negotiated in good faith and implement the agreed terms and conditions as soon as possible.”
The Department of Finance said it understands the Department of Health intends to submit a revised business case for a new dental contract for approval.
A spokesperson added: “The Department of Finance will consider the proposals contained within that business case once received.”