Minister announces new oral health policy

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, announced the research and development of a new National Oral Health Policy last month and undertook a keynote address on the subject at Croke Park on 18 October.

This new oral health strategy, the first in 13 years, will be undertaken by the Department of Health and Children, in conjunction with the HSE. It will allow a critical examination of the many challenges and issues currently facing the dental sector in Ireland.

Some of the main areas that it is intended to examine in the development of the new policy are:
• A revised regulatory regime for the dental sector in Ireland, culminating in a new Dentists Act
• The integration of oral health in the wider healthcare delivery system to include health promotion, children’s health, primary care partnerships, disability services, long stay care and services for older people
• Competition issues as raised by the Competition Authority in its report on the dental profession in Ireland
• Manpower planning, specialisation and skills-mix, including the recognition and future expansion of the role of auxiliary dental professions and the identification of appropriate training needs
• Examining the possibility of stream-lining the existing state-funded dental schemes
• Service delivery issues such as orthodontic services and special needs dentistry.

Minister Harney stated: ‘I am pleased to announce the development of a new National Oral Health Policy. It is an opportune time to examine dental policy as there are a number of challenges to which the dental sector in Ireland must respond. We need to update our regulatory regime to enable us to improve the competitive environment for dental services in Ireland. In addition, we need to reorientate our dental services in response to the demands brought about by changing demography in Ireland, while also improving the level of service to certain existing groups within our society.

‘I am also anxious that we co-ordinate, and where possible, stream-line existing methods of service delivery to reduce inefficiencies, achieve greater value for money, produce synergies and deliver a greater level of service. Also, I am concerned that in developing this policy we place a strong emphasis on future dental treatment needs and set down the strategies for services and professionals that will help us deliver on these needs. We must also be cognisant of the continuing value of education in oral disease prevention.’

To produce the National Oral Health Policy report, it is intended that a wide ranging consultation exercise with key stakeholders, interested agencies and the general public will be undetaken. The report is expected to be available in July 2008.

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