Northern Ireland issues to the fore at LDC Conference in Belfast
The 2018 LDC Conference was held in Belfast in June, the first time the conference had been held outside England. Forty topics were debated by 240 delegates, with motions submitted by LDCs from Northern Ireland, Wales and England.
Although many of the motions had relevance throughout the UK, two had particular relevance for practitioners in Northern Ireland.
A motion put forward by the Southern LDC asked the conference to agree that the delays in implementation of the pay awards every year, particularly in Northern Ireland, are unacceptable. As with other nations, Northern Ireland continues to have time delays in the application of uplifts. This is usually up to a year from the DDRB publication of its recommendation and is a significant and ongoing issue.
The decision from the DDRB report published in April 2017 was only implemented in April 2017, which meant it had to be backdated for the 12 months it had taken. This followed a zero per cent uplift in the financial year 2015/16 and another 12-month wait in Northern Ireland for the 2014/15 uplift for GDPs, which was implemented in April 2015, again, a full year after the DDRB report was published. For this financial year, the DDRB process was delayed because of the UK elections last year. Evidence was submitted in December 2017, but the DDRB report recommending the GDP pay uplift for 2018/19 is still to be published.
“We would like to see bespoke regulations which would be relevant and appropriate for small practices”
Another motion, again put forward by Southern, asked the conference to endorse the view that it is unnecessary over-regulation to regulate dental practices in Northern Ireland as independent hospitals. James Kelly, Practice Principal and Secretary of the Southern LDC, who spoke to the motion at the conference, explained why his LDC had felt it was so important to raise this issue: “The regulation of dental practices has historically been carried out by dental practitioners appointed by the local health board. This was a local bespoke service, which was used to ensure dental practice met a minimum quality standard. Unfortunately, dental practices were later shoehorned into the independent healthcare regulations 2005(NI). This meant that the legislation was extremely onerous, irrelevant and time consuming for practices to meet, as the recommendations generally were only truly relevant to large independent hospitals and nursing homes responsible for complex healthcare needs, not small single or two-handed dental practices.”
James is clear that the result of the new system has been detrimental to practices: “We’ve seen an increase in both practice costs and administration, less clinical time, rising stress on dental profession and increasing costs passed on to patients. We would like to see bespoke dental practice regulations which would be relevant and appropriate for small dental practices. This would take into account the low-risk nature of dentistry as a whole.”
Both motions were passed unanimously, and we will be investigating these issues, and any developments around them, in future issues of Ireland’s Dental.