Tristen Kelso reflects on how the voice of dentistry is now being heard at the highest level.
We have had an unprecedented level of engagement with political representatives during this COVID-19 period, as we have campaigned on behalf of dentists and dentistry. Dentistry is finally getting the platform it deserves, as an integral part of health and social care.
Your voice heard at the highest levels
"We saw movement on the key issue of access to central PPE supplies"
This week was the culmination of a lot of hard work. On Tuesday, the Health Committee met and received evidence from the Health Minister Robin Swann MLA, during which dentistry featured prominently.
We saw movement on the key issue of access to central PPE supplies for dental practices, with the Minister indicating that the Department will issue 800k-£1m worth of PPE to support dental practices on entering Phase 2. This large consignment of Level 1 PPE for GDPs will include Type IIr masks, visors, gloves and aprons - almost 3 million items in total. The Business Services Organisation will begin deliveries to dental practices in the next 10-14 days, in proportion to a practice’s Health Service commitment.
Nineteen Assembly questions on dentistryhave been tabled since May by MLAs from across the political spectrum, both prior to and following our evidence. We’ve engaged politicians on the most pressing issues facing general practice, including: PPE, financial support and the re-establishment of general dental services.
Making the case for dentistry
We welcome that the Minister has publicly recognised the importance of oral health to general health, and has committed to ensuring dental services will be an integral part of rebuilding Health and Social Care services.
As indicated by the Minister, the CDO has been instrumental in the development of the rebuilding plan. And following our own committee evidence, MLAs have agreed to invite the Acting CDO and other DoH officials to the Health Committee on Thursday 9 July.
This is real progress, but we will continue to work to ensure that our issues are not side lined, and the integral nature of dental care to wider health and care services is understood.
"Through lobbying our elected representatives, your issues are being heard at the highest levels of government."
We have been working harder than ever to ensure dentists are seen and heard at this crucial time. Through lobbying our elected representatives, your issues are being heard at the highest levels of government. The needs of the profession now, and in the coming months are being heard loud and clear by those in government.
To me, the recent words of the Health Minister and Chief Medical Officer ring true: “It is not solely about looking at teeth and putting in fillings, our dentists provide additional value. The impact of COVID on dentistry has been profound….and we are indebted to all of the dentists and other staff who have volunteered to work in the urgent dental care centres and provided their services.”
Having the ear of government at a time of pandemic is indeed important progress. Seeing the dental profession being recognised by the Minister, the Chief Medical Officer and others is gratifying; however, the needs of the profession are great, and this marks the start, not the end of a process to rebuild dental services in Northern Ireland.
Keep up to date with BDA COVID-19 activity on our live updates page.
BDA Northern Ireland Director