Northern Ireland: Support negotiations must provide financial certainty for dentists to keep treating patients
17 September 2020
The Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee (NIDPC) and the Department of Health continue to negotiate on Post-October GDS COVID financial support.
Our negotiating position is that the current financial support scheme (FSS) should continue - with no abatement and amended eligibility rules to allow excluded GDPs access to funding – until COVID restrictions are removed. We will accept no reduction of GDS gross funding levels. We have made it abundantly clear that, during this period of recovery, dental practitioners need a level of financial certainty to allow them to remain focused on treating patients rather than fixating on their financial bottom line.
A key obstacle to achieving this aim is the Department’s concerns that:
1) GDPs are delaying the submission of Item of Service claims
2) there are significant differences in activity levels between practices.
These concerns are the reasons why the Department have attached new conditions to the financial support scheme. These requirements include providing health service AGP treatments, and the submission of all outstanding completed Item of Service claims by 08 October.
Failure to meet these conditions will lead to a reduction in FSS payments.
In addition, GDPs who did not submit Item of Service claims in the August-September payment period have received letters from the BSO querying the reason why. The deadline for response is Friday 18 September so
we would advise members to immediately check their HSCNI email accounts.
The recent BDA Activity Survey identified several reasons why practitioners have been unable to submit Item of Service claims:
- 42% were holding on to claims due to the uncertainty regarding Post-September GDS Financial Support
- 33% were unaware BSO were accepting digital or paper submissions
- 31% have not yet completed any claimable courses of treatment
- 28% reported that none of their clinical activity was claimable under the SDR
As the results from the survey make clear, the situation is not clear cut, there are many different factors in play and NIDPC continues to argue to the Department that the number of GDPs submitting claims will rise as more and more treatment courses are completed.
However, reports of MLAs/MPs receiving complaints from previously health service registered patients protesting that they are being denied treatment on the health service, but being offered private treatment, has markedly increased in recent days. As a result, the levels of scrutiny being applied to each FSS payment is likely to increase.
Transparency is vitally important. That’s why we would strongly advise members to immediately inform both BSO and HSCB of any change in circumstances that will lead to a significant reduction in Item of Service claims and/or preclude you from carrying out Health Service AGP treatments.
We would also advise you to ensure that your private/Health Service treatment split is broadly in line with what it was pre-COVID. Dentists need to be aware of their terms and conditions of service and to work and act within them.
The BDA continues to raise the plight of private/mixed practitioners with political stakeholders. On Tuesday, following our lobbying, private dentistry was mentioned in an NI Assembly debate, and several MLAs have submitted Assembly Written Questions to the Health Minister on our behalf.
NIDPC will continue fight to ensure that Health Service, mixed, and wholly private dental practitioners receive the financial support they need to continue to treat patients during this pandemic.
Senior Policy Advisor
BDA Northern Ireland