Northern Ireland invests £9.2m in dental access

28 March 2024

Robin Swann, minister of health of Northern Ireland (NI), has announced a £9.2m investment in dental access initiatives for 2024/25. The investment aims to bolster support for dental practices and protect public access to health services and dental care.

Robin confirmed a six per cent pay uplift for dentists for the current financial year. This increase will be backdated to April 2023 and is in line with the recommendations from the DDRB (Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body).

The uplift includes a 7.3 per cent increase to non-staff expenses for 2023/24 and a three per cent recurrent award in future years. 

The £9.2m investment package for dental services includes:

  • £1m for newly registered child patients through the reestablishment of the Enhanced Child Examination Scheme. This scheme provides children aged 0-10 who have not been registered with a dentist with an examination, individualised oral health advice and age-specific fluoride application to teeth to assist with preventing dental decay
  • £4.3m to fund a 30 per cent enhancement to fees paid to dentists for health service fillings, extractions and root canal treatment for 2024/25. This will support public access to priority treatments
  • £3.9m for the treatment of high-priority unregistered patients through a Dental Access Scheme

Robin said, “It is important that people in Northern Ireland have access to a dentist when needed. These interventions are designed to remove some of the barriers that are limiting that access.

“I am extremely grateful for the commitment and effort shown by general dental practitioners and their teams through the challenges faced over the last few years. I hope that this investment eases some of the pressures on practices and emphasises the importance of the service being provided.  It is essential that we have a service that works for both the profession and patients.”

Robin continued, “I am also pleased to be announcing the pay uplift for dentists. As with other health service workforces, this had been delayed by the absence of an executive. I am happy to be able to now put that situation right.”

Robin also provided an update on the proposed changes to the EU laws relating to dental amalgam and his concerns regarding the implications for Northern Ireland.

Robin stated, “These changes would significantly restrict dentists from placing amalgam fillings, increase costs for patients and have a significant impact on the capacity of a service that is still struggling since the pandemic.

“My view remains that a phase down in line with the wider UK position, rather than a phase out, of amalgam is in the best interests of patients in NI. This is a matter for the new Windsor Framework Democratic Scrutiny Committee to consider in detail, in terms of impacts in Northern Ireland.

“Thereafter, members of the assembly will wish to consider whether the initiation of the Stormont Brake process is necessary and justified.  My department has already written to the committee to advise of concerns around the significant and persisting impact of the new laws and I will continue to help the committee in any way I can.”