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Wed 17 Oct 2007 02:00 PM

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£4 million boost for N.I. dentistry

The Northern Ireland Assembly has announced a £4.4 million cash injection for National Health Service (NHS) dentistry, following prolonged lobbying from the British Dental Association (BDA).

The Northern Ireland Assembly has announced a £4.4 million cash injection for National Health Service (NHS) dentistry, following prolonged lobbying from the British Dental Association (BDA).

The health service has been instructed to directly address current gaps in the provision of NHS dentistry, which have seen patients struggle to access care.

The BDA has been critical of what they termed ‘long time chronic under-investment', but said the move should boost the morale of dentists, which, they report, is at an all time low.

Of the overall funding, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said, £2 million has been earmarked to help dental practices meet rising overhead costs. £1.5 million will be spent overhauling cross-infection control practices through the provision of new sterilisation equipment and procedural training.

£500,000 will boost vocational training allowances for dental trainers willing to take on new graduates, and £400,000 will help health boards recruit dentists and cover the shortfalls in service provision.

In a statement to the Assembly, McGimpsey said: "I strongly believe that people who want health service dentistry should be able to get it. That is far from the case in too many parts of Northern Ireland today.

"It has become clear that the additional £2 million funding announced earlier this year, though undoubtedly significant, has not proved sufficient to stop the movement of dentists out of the health service.

"I am therefore pleased to be able to announce a substantial package of additional measures. These new measures will allow the health service to begin to address directly the problems of gaps in provision which are a matter of real concern to the public."

McGimpsey added that he hoped the news would prompt private sector dentists to review their practice policies.

"I very much hope that the significant investments I have outlined will encourage dentists not only to come into and stay in the health service, but to come back to it where they have currently opted for private practice."

Responding to today's announcement, BDA Northern Ireland director Claudette Christie called the announcement "a step in the right direction".

"In tackling Northern Ireland's chronic access concerns, we are very pleased that the Health Minister has seriously engaged with the profession and is responding to our concerns," she said.

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