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A long time coming: We've got a result on the CDS contract in Northern Ireland

Blog Author Grainne Quinn

Blog Date 17/04/2019

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The news that the Department of Finance has now given approval to implement our long-awaited Community Dental Services Contract in Northern Ireland, I'm sure feels like a great relief to colleagues in CDS and beyond.

Because the saga over this contract had become a symbol for the whole profession in Northern Ireland.

The old terms and conditions of the CDS contract were agreed back in 1988. Under this contract, there was no dedicated training and no agreed appraisal plans. And 1988 looked very different from the way 2019 does.

We were the last staff in any part of the UK health services to work under antique terms. This had affected morale in the CDS which has been falling sharply. According to the BDA CDS member survey last year, 47 per cent of respondents said their morale in their work as a dentist was 'very low' or 'low'.

Community dentists had been left facing an uncertain future, working to rules drafted 3 decades ago. It's been a surreal decade of negotiation, frustration and inertia but we've really got a result.  It's not been easy, but we've been determined to ensure paralysis at Stormont didn't leave this service, and the care we provide for vulnerable patients, at risk.

There have been the letters, the meetings, the phone calls. Perhaps to officials we seemed like a stuck record. But we weren't going to let this go and raised the issue with senior officials at every opportunity. Even the fact there was "no government" did not deter us.

When BDA Northern Ireland gave oral evidence to the pay review body (DDRB) last year, their Secretariat specifically asked us about the impact the delay was having on staff. This was the first time we've ever been asked this question directly and we took this as a positive sign.

This change is what we've been working for years. We now have a dedicated training and development budget for community dentists, the equivalent of £750 per head, with more specialist training to meet more complex patient needs

New job planning and appraisal systems based upon clinical competences have been specifically designed for Community Dentists.

Back pay due to be received at the end of April, will be honored, and anomalies – like the CDS having a different leave year to all other staff – will end, ensuring dentists are not left without nurses, and vice versa.

The specialised training in the new contract will enable us to meet the needs of our patients with more complex needs. This group of patient is rising, with an ageing population, and growing waiting lists for GA extractions for children, we know we are struggling to meet the demands of care. The structure and resourcing of the CDS needs to be urgently looked at, to help us prepare for the future.

It's been a long, sometimes strange journey. Even though agreement was reached in 2016 funding has been resting in the accounts of Trusts, awaiting Ministerial approval that never came.

Our members should never have been put in this position. They treat the elderly, the housebound, patients with complex needs facing ever longer waiting lists. They've deserved real recognition and investment.

We hope this deal will offer them some compensation.

Grainne Quinn, Chair
Northern Ireland Salaried Dentists Committee


BDA Northern Ireland

BDA Northern Ireland supports, represents and promotes, the interests of all dentists working in Northern Ireland. Working with elected committee members, we negotiate on behalf of the profession on terms and conditions, pay and contracts. Join us.