Mullan Gallagher Dentists Take NHS Cuts Protest to Stormont
Strangford MLA Kieran McCarthy, member of the Assembly Health Committee, has supported Downpatrick dental practice, Mullan Gallagher Dental Group, in its challenge to Department of Health plans to restrict the dental treatment available on the NHS.
Presenting a petition that was signed by some 1700 patients of Mullan Gallagher Dental Group to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr McCarthy expressed fears of a “two-tier dental service”.
Mr McCarthy said: “The volume of people willing to sign against the draconian proposals for the future of dentistry in Northern Ireland quite clearly shows they wish to see everyone in the community being able to have dental treatment when they require it, and the dentist must have the professional autonomy to decide treatment rather than having to wait for approval from someone at BSO.”
Ciara Gallagher, partner at Mullan Gallagher Dental Group, said that a number of the proposals are “wholly unacceptable”. She added: “Not only are the Department’s plans inequitable, but they in fact bring us out of line with the rest of the UK . As it stands Northern Ireland ‘s oral health record is already poor… a typical five-year-old has an average of two and a half decayed teeth, and our 12-year-olds have more than double the UK average level of decay.
“Under these proposals, practices are being asked to provide certain essential services only where there is the capacity to pay, and – clearly – plans to reduce contact of patients with dental health care professionals, by time barring scaling to once a year, directly contradict governmental emphasis on prevention.”
Expressing concerns about plans for additional bureaucracy, Ciara also said: “We will have to seek approval before carrying out molar root canal treatment. This effectively means that treatment cannot proceed and pain relief cannot be provided until ‘permission’ is given to provide what is actually essential care. These proposals put the process in the way of care.
“The proposed changes will do nothing but have a detrimental effect on those most in need of the service that dentists provide.
“NHS general dentists already provide better value for money than any government commissioned dental service. By making it harder for practices to survive, the Department is being penny wise and pound foolish.
“Our practice’s success is based on excellence, ethics, economy and efficiency. These cuts are in direct contravention of the NHS core values of ‘meeting the needs of everyone’ and treatment being ‘based on clinical need, not ability to pay’. For this reason our team has been talking to patients about their concerns, and my colleagues and I have met with a range of local MLAs and members of the Assembly Health Committee to try to make the Department of Health sit up and take notice.
“Our patients rely on the care we provide, and as a Practice we are committed to challenging any threat to the level of care they have historically received and rightly expect,” added Ciara Gallagher.