On 2 July Health Minister Michael McGimpsey revealed that negotiations had already started between the Department of Health and the general dental practice committee of the British Dental Association to secure a bespoke dental contract for Northern Ireland, thereby enabling the recommendations of the primary dental care strategy to be implemented. The custom-made contract is expected to be piloted in the next year.
Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly highlighted the fact that there are problems with the new contract in England and Wales, and it was felt that the situation must be monitored in an effort to ensure any potential legislation in Northern Ireland does what it sets out to achieve.
Tommy Gallagher (Social Democratic and Labour Party, Fermanagh and South Tyrone), who instigated the debate in the Assembly, commented: ‘In the last decade, while spending on the health service had increased by 64%, spending on general dental services had gone up by only 22%.
‘As a result, dentists who concentrated on NHS work have found that their salaries have markedly reduced. Since costs for premises and equipment are the responsibility of the dentists, it is not surprising that more and more of them faced with falling incomes are putting a greater emphasis on private treatment.’
Closing the debate, Carmel Hanna of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, stated: ‘Members will closely watch the progress of legislation and, more importantly, the outcomes to ensure that it does the business.’