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Dentists says lack of funding means new oral health policy lacks credibility

(05 Apr 2019)

The Irish Dental Association has said the completely inadequate level of funding being proposed for the implementation of the new oral health policy means it already has a serious credibility problem.

Speaking at the Association’s annual conference in Galway, IDA Chief Executive Fintan Hourihan described the Department of Health’s funding proposal of €80m – based on ESRI* research - as totally unrealistic.

“We welcomed the publication of the policy and we regard it as well intentioned. However, on day one we warned that successful delivery was dependent on sufficient, ringfenced funding being allocated to it. The plan envisages a major shift from public to private provision of dental care for children. Now that we have had some time to study the costing exercise carried out by the ESRI on behalf of the Department of Health we can see that it bears little relation to what is happening on the ground.”

The IDA says the issues with the proposed funding based on ESRI research are;

  • No account is taken of the fact that time spent treating children is significantly greater than for adults – typically 3 times greater
  • The fee levels on which the costings are based are over ten years old
  • There is no provision for the reversal of FEMPI fee cuts
  • It fails to take account of the knock-on costs of providing care in nursing homes
  • It fails to take account of the huge unmet dental need

“Dentists have seen cuts of €1bn since 2008 in cuts in funding to the two state schemes and in restrictions in tax relief, so proposing to ask private dentists to take on more work with a budget of €80m is simply unrealistic.”

Mr Hourihan pointed out that members have raised serious concerns about practical shortcomings in the treatment of children generally and vulnerable children in particular under the new policy.

“We weren’t consulted about the new policy in any meaningful way so it’s not surprising that our members are coming to us now with serious concerns about the removal of free, same day emergency cover for children from the public service, the integration of care of the child where they transfer from general practice to the public sector and the well-documented difficulties in arranging access for treatment under general anaesthesia and the severe lack of facilities nationally for this.”

Mr Hourihan also signalled that many serious industrial relations issues will need to be resolved for dentists in general practice and for those working in the public service. 

“Reforms will not proceed unless there is a fundamental shift in the approach of the state towards dentists in all branches of practice. Equally, the state needs to understand also that raising expectations as regards the role of general practice when such inadequate funding has been proposed means that reform will not succeed and patients will be left with the worst of both worlds” he concluded.