On Monday, dental practices were able to kickstart non-AGP procedures for the first time since lockdown began.
But ahead of AGPs being given the green light on 20th July, the group raised a number of issues and concerns in a meeting with the health minister, Robin Swann, this week.
- Access to personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Financial pressures on dental practices as a result of COVID-19 and the need for continued support from the Department of Health
- Ensuring dentistry is prioritised in the rebuilding of Health and Social Care (HSC) services.
‘For the first time in a long time, a health minister has acknowledged the importance of oral health to general health,’ said Richard Graham, chair of the Northern Ireland dental practice committee.
‘He has committed to ensuring dental services will be an integral part of rebuilding HSC Services.
‘The minister has also recognised the enormous contribution of the dental profession in stepping up and playing a leading role in the battle against COVID-19.
‘We welcome this additional step forward on PPE. However, the date for AGPs set to resume from 20 July. There is further clarity needed to ensure that higher grade PPE will be included. This means health service patients can be treated accordingly.’
Only the start
The Department of Health has confirmed dental practices will have access to central PPE supplies. BSO is expected to begin PPE deliveries to dental practices within the next 10-14 days.
Additionally, the minister confirmed BDA calls for dentistry to be represented by the acting chief dental officer on the new management board are in consideration.
Mr Graham added: ‘The level of anxiety among the dental profession at this time is extremely high. We welcome this useful, constructive engagement with the minister, and the steps he has taken.
‘However, this is only the start of a process to rebuild general dental services, not the end.
‘The BDA is committed to continuing to work with the Department of Health and HSCB officials. Not least to give the profession a voice of what the remuneration model will look like after August.
‘We have cleared the air on previous legacy issues. Now, the hard work must be done together. By the profession, with Department of Health and HSCB, if we are to find meaningful solutions.’