Vulnerable patients being failed by Stormont

BDA attacks NI Government for u-turning on community dentists’ contract agreement

The British Dental Association (BDA) in Northern Ireland has accused Stormont of backtracking on an agreement to modernise community dentists’ contracts.

Dentists working in the community dental service are the only health service workers in the UK not to have had their terms and conditions modernised since the 1980s.

In March last year, following seven years of negotiations, BDA members overwhelmingly voted to support an agreement reached between the BDA and the NI Government on a new contract. Funding was believed to have been set aside by the Department of Health and allocated to local trusts, but the Department of Finance has since claimed that no agreement has been reached.

Grainne Quinn, chair of the BDA’s Northern Ireland Salaried Dentists Committee (pictured), said: “These community dentists are the only health professionals left in the UK working under contracts drafted three decades ago. Last year we reached an agreement to bring their terms and conditions into the 21st Century, but ever since ministers and officials have been stalling.

“It has been very frustrating for these dedicated professionals who are serving the most vulnerable people in Northern Ireland. It means they have spent a year not even knowing how much leave they are entitled to, unclear if a promise of nearly two years of backdated pay increases will ever materialise, or when this situation will be resolved.

“It’s an absurd situation. For 12 months the money set aside has been sitting in trusts’ bank accounts gaining interest while officials in Stormont squabble among themselves over whether an agreement was even reached.

“All we are asking for is for ministers to honour an agreement negotiated in good faith and implement the agreed terms and conditions as soon as possible.”