Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Health what his Department is doing to address the lack of NHS places in dental practices in Mid Ulster.
Minister of Health: Access to routine dental care continues to be significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused reduced activity and therefore reduced capacity in dental practices. In order to increase activity in General Dental Services, I introduced the Rebuilding Support Scheme (RSS), which rewards dentists based on treatments being provided. The RSS has seen an increase in activity levels of around 16.5% over the first 5 months of 2022/23, and support will continue until the end of the financial year.
Any General Dental Practitioner signed up to the RSS is required to treat patients based on clinical need, regardless of their registration status. This is to ensure that those patients most in need are able to obtain a dental appointment.
In addition, any patient who has an urgent or emergency dental need, is able to make use of an Emergency Dental Clinic during weekends or Public Holidays. There the patient will be triaged remotely, and appropriate advice given or treatment arranged.
To further help those in most need, on 3 October 2022, my Department commenced a scheme throughout Northern Ireland to provide access to unregistered patients who are experiencing an emergency or urgent dental condition.
Support being provided to dental practices will remain under ongoing review.