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Sinn Féin press Minister to tackle dental care crisis for new NHS patients

28 April, 2008

Sinn Féin has tabled a motion for debate in the Assembly tomorrow calling on Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to take urgent action to address the inadequacy of dental care provision for NHS patients.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow's debate Sinn Fein West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty said,

"Across all Health Board areas it is almost impossible to find a dentist willing to take on a new NHS patient. Nowhere is the ongoing crisis more apparent than in my own Constituency."

Highlighting the problem Mr Doherty added:

"Following numerous representations from constituents, at their wits end after trying in vein to find a dentist willing to take them on, I requested details of those dental practices in the Omagh and Strabane Districts that are prepared to take on new NHS patients.

"In response the Minister detailed 10 practices in Omagh and 5 in Strabane who are on the dental list of the Central Services Agency (CSA) - and who are registered to facilitate the undertaking of Health Service dentistry.

"However, the list he provided did not correspond to what people are telling us on the ground so Sinn Fein decided to put this list to the test by contacting each and every practice named on the Ministers list.

"When contacted, 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. The only glimpse of light was one dental surgery in Strabane who said that their books would re-open in July, at the earliest."

Concluding the West Tyrone MP said:

"I have no doubt that similar results would be found in each and every District in the six counties. So in bringing this motion to the Assembly tomorrow, Sinn Fein will be demanding that the Minister takes decisive action to not only ensure a long term strategy to deal with this issue but just as importantly to put in place necessary emergency measures so that all those NHS patients who are currently being excluded from the system secure the treatment they urgently require." ENDS

Note to editors:

The Sinn Féin group on Omagh District Council has also tabled a motion for May calling on the Health Minister to take urgent steps to address the inadequacy of dental care provision for NHS patients in the Omagh district.

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