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No room at the Inn for dental patients – McAleer

23 April, 2008


Mid Tyrone Sinn Féin Councillor, Declan McAleer has added his voice to the growing lobby for proper dental provision in the area.

Cllr McAleer was responding to a question tabled by Pat Doherty MP to Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey. Mr Doherty's question requested details of dental practices in the Omagh and Strabane areas who are prepared to take on new NHS patients.

According to Cllr McAleer

"Michael McGimpsey's response accepted that there was a lack of dental services in the Omagh and Strabane areas willing to actively accept new Health service patients".

"The Minister's answer gave details of 10 dental practices in Omagh and 5 in Strabane who are on the dental list of the Central Services Agency (CSA). These practices are registered to facilitate the undertaking of health service dentistry. However, when I telephoned each of these practices, not one was willing to take on new NHS patients.

"All of the practices made the excuse that their books were either full or presently closed to new NHS patients and that these would not re open for the foreseeable future. It was a case of 'No room at the Inn'. The only glimpse of light was one dental surgery in Strabane who said that their books would re open in July, at the earliest!

"This is an appalling set of circumstances where people from the most socially deprived sections of our community are denied the right to adequate dental care. The Minister must really get his act together and urgently recruit more dentists into the NHS. This is an issue which we, as elected representatives, will keep pursuing with the Minister and the Western Health Board with the utmost of vigour." ENDS

Note to editor

Assembly Question: Pat Doherty

Will the minister provide a definitive list of dental practices in Omagh and Strabane who accept new NHS patients without requiring them to pay fees?

Response from Minister Mc Gimpsey:

"I am aware that there is at present, a lack of dental practices in the Omagh and Strabane areas willing to actively accept new Health Service patients to their practice lists. The Department however is unable to detail exactly what practices in these areas are willing to accept new health service patients as this information can change daily.

Currently there are 10 dental practices in Omagh and 5 in Strabane who are all registered on the dental list of the Central Services Agency (CSA) to facilitate the undertaking of health service dentistry. The decision as to whether a dentist is willing to accept or discontinue health service work is a matter for the individual dentist, who is free to decide to increase or decrease the numbers of health service patients he or she is prepared to take at any given time.

There is no obligation on dentists to accept a patient for health service treatment, nor do current contractual arrangements permit Health and Social Services Boards to compel dentists to provide Health Service dental services. Dental practices in Omagh and Strabane are under no obligation to inform the Western Health Board of which patients they are treating under the Health Service or under a private contract.

Statistical data, however, shows that as at March 2008 all but one of the fifteen practices registered with the CSA to facilitate the undertaking of health service dentistry in the Omagh and Strabane areas had accepted new health service patients during 2007/08 and another practice, which had a small number of new registrations, was an orthodontic practice and would only treat patients on the Health Service on a referral basis for specialist treatments."

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