Cuts put future of HS dentistry in doubt
Dentists have warned that cuts to vital financial support for Health Service (HS) practices undermines the survival of the service. The Rebuilding Support Scheme, introduced in April this year applied a 25% uplift on fees paid for health service treatments to help dental practices recover from the impact of COVID. A BDA spokesperson explains.
Officials have now confirmed support will be cut back to 10% from next month. The cuts in support take place at a time of soaring expenses for high-street practices and threaten the survival of the service. The growing disconnect between treatment fees and the actual cost to deliver HS dentistry in Northern Ireland has reached crisis point, leaving many dentists delivering certain treatments at a financial loss.
While BDA recognises the efforts that the Department of Health has made to support the service over the pandemic, it has stressed that with mounting costs in a service that was under serious financial pressure pre-COVID, there is now a ‘perfect storm’. With dental inflation in excess of 12% practices will not be able to sustainably continue to provide HS treatments.
Recent research produced in collaboration with the BBC revealed over 90% of practices are not taking on new adult patients with 88% not taking on child patients. The BDA stresses that access to HS dental care will be negatively impacted even further with these latest cuts, and that more interim investment, not less is needed to make General Dental Services sustainable.
The professional body has sought to work constructively with the Department of Health to seek urgent solutions to the immediate expenses crisis, but at this stage no meaningful solution has been proposed and current support has been downgraded.
Ciara Gallagher (top), Chair of the Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee said: “A lifeline that helped keep practices afloat has been cut and dentists are reeling at the message that this sends regarding their futures within the NHS
“Practitioners face a perfect storm, with expenses on the rise and fees from government which do not cover the costs of delivering care. We want to continue caring for our patients – but cannot do so at a loss.
“Like any business, dental practices, have to balance their books, meet payroll and fulfil their obligations to suppliers; when fees paid do not match costs to provide care, this is not possible.
“If HS dentistry is going to survive, we need meaningful support until a new, fit for purpose contract is in place. At a time of widespread dental access issues, and when practices do not view HS dentistry as being financially viable, we are genuinely concerned at the impact on this vital public service from these latest cuts. We need extra investment, not less. Time and goodwill are running out.”