Dickson Expresses Total Frustration at Lack of Dental Provision for NHS Patients
East Antrim Alliance MLA, Stewart Dickson, has said he is increasingly worried about constituents coming into his office distressed that they are unable to find a dental surgery in the constituency that will take on new NHS patients.
Mr Dickson said: “In figures released today, 90% of dental practices in Northern Ireland are not accepting new adult patients and 88% are not accepting child patients.
“In Mid and East Antrim, we are particularly concerned that there is a severe shortage of practices accepting adults entitled to NHS dental care. 24 surgeries have NHS contracts, but 96% are not accepting new patients.”
In addition to those under the age of 18, certain groups of individuals such as those availing of universal credit and pension credit, are entitled to free NHS dental care.
Mr Dickson continued: “Many people entitled to free care, are entitled to it exactly because they are vulnerable and their disposable income is limited.
“To be denied oral healthcare is simply unacceptable in this day and age. Not least because regular check-ups are pivotal in diagnosing oral cancer and other health conditions.
“This is an issue that has long been looming on the horizon, and which the Alliance Party has been warning the Health and Economy Ministers about for years. Unforgivably, there hasn’t been the necessary investment in training and equipment, whilst the situation has been compounded by dentists struggling with time-consuming paperwork in already busy circumstances.
“Our health service is under immense pressure and needs to be urgently transformed - dentistry must be an intrinsic part of that transformation. I have said exactly that in a letter to the Health Minister, and will be raising my concerns wherever possible until this crisis is brought under control.”
Stormont's Department of Health has said it is developing a dedicated scheme to improve access to dental care for unregistered patients. It hopes to launch the pilot by the end of the summer.