High number of children waiting for dental care in NI

05 January 2022
1 min read

BBC News NI has reportedly obtained figures that show more than 500 children in the country are waiting for urgent dental treatment. However, the figure does not include the hundreds of children that are also waiting for routine procedures.

The longest wait time for urgent extractions is 53 weeks in the Southern Health Trust, which is one of the worst affected areas.

Caroline Lappin, Northern Ireland's chief dental officer, said she "shared the frustration" over the figures.

"There is no quick fix to this in the short term," she told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme.

"Therefore, the solution is in the shorter term to prioritise children who are having the most significant pain."

The BBC highlighted that “the figures concern children who require removal of teeth under general anaesthetic”.

Addressing this, the chief dental officer said, "General anaesthetic services throughout all the trust areas have been very adversely impacted during the pandemic.

"These are children where general anaesthetic services are the last resort and all other treatment options have been exhausted.”

Caroline also explained that health trusts have been asked to undergo a revaluation of the children waiting for urgent dental treatment, adding, "These children are being prioritised alongside other patients who require a theatre slot.

"Our trusts are being asked to prioritise these children in terms of symptoms as opposed to their chronological order on the waiting list."

Caroline said that whilst the Covid-19 pandemic had created "huge challenges", "before the covid pandemic we certainly had a small number of extended waits throughout our trusts in Northern Ireland."

She said a "regional solution" is being worked on that would mean children could be treated in any hospital in Northern Ireland.

"[Treatment] may not be available in the hospital closest to them but concession will be made," she said.

"I share the frustration by colleagues, by children and by their parents indeed in relation to these extremely extended waiting times for treatment.

"I would like to reassure parents that the department and the Health and Social Care Board have been actively working to reduce these waiting times."