URGENT action is needed to support Northern Ireland’s dental practices and avoid closures, East Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden has said.
Ms Sugden has written to Health Minister Robin Swann amid a flurry of correspondence from local dentists concerned about the viability of their businesses in the wake of new, COVID-related costs and delays. It was the second time in a month she wrote to request support for dentists.
Most dentists in Northern Ireland provide a mix of NHS and private treatment. The British Dental Association recently wrote a scathing letter to Executive ministers stressing that, without support, neither side of their business would be viable.
“The viability of these mixed practices relies on dentists carrying out private work. If this element of their practice becomes unsustainable because of the new, but necessary, guidelines then practices will close, leaving both private and NHS patients without a dentist,” Ms Sugden said.
“This can’t be allowed to happen in what is already a sector under pressure.
“Fewer patients can now be seen because of the time it takes to sanitise treatment rooms between appointments, and massive hikes have been seen in PPE costs.
“Dentists need to be supported so they can continue operating under the new guidelines.”
The BDA has requested a bespoke support package, including full rates relief for 2020/21, for their private businesses, and increased funding for their Health Service work to meet increased costs.
Many dentists were “at their wits end” and the response from the NI Health Department had been “wholly deficient”, the BDA said.
“Dentists need urgent help,” Ms Sugden said. “And they need it as soon as possible.”