90% of Northern Ireland NHS dentists unable to take on new patients

The chair of the British Dental Assocoation Practice Committee in the north has warned practices are struggling to cope with demand and high costs while patients face a “postcode lottery”.

NHS dentistry in Northern Ireland at a tipping point, the BDA has warned following extensive research conducted by the BBC which revealed nine in ten NHS dental practices here are unable to offer appointments to new adult patients.

The British Dental Association has now pressed the government to step up and deliver urgent reform as the survey revealed 246 of 274 practices in the north were unble to take on new adult patients and 88% of NHS practices were not accepting new child patients.

Health service dentists - who work as independent contractors - have seen incomes fall by 40% in real terms since 2008/09 while being confronted with soaring costs, the BDA warned, meaning many face the prospect of delivering HS care at a financial loss.

Dentists. File picture. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP) (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

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BDA NI is pressing for an end to the discredited high volume/ low margin model the service has worked to 30 years, warning is no longer delivering for patients or the dental profession. It has stressed a new system must ensure HS dentistry is financially sustainable in its own right, without being kept afloat by income from private work.

Ciara Gallagher, Chair of the British Dental Association’s NI Dental Practice Committee, said: “We can only hope dental care in NI had not yet reached the point of no return.”

Ciara added: “Dentists are already moving on and practices are struggling to remain viable, because the numbers Health Service dentistry is based on simply don’t add up.

“This postcode lottery our patients now face will only end when we see real reform backed up by fair funding.”

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Dentist leaders are pressing for interim support measures to be put in place until a new contract is implemented.