Page last updated at 10:03 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 11:03 UK

17m plan for new NHS dentists

Patient being treated by dentist
17m will provide 38 new NHS dentists for Northern Ireland

Almost 40 new NHS dentists are to be appointed to tackle the chronic shortage in Northern Ireland.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said he had awarded a £17m contract for the provision of additional dentists "where they were most needed".

The first dentists will be appointed to areas of greatest need and should be in post by the end of the year.

Earlier this year the BBC reported long queues outside a dental surgery in Irvinestown, County Fermanagh.

Mr McGimpsey said he hoped the new dentists would "greatly ease current access problems".

"My officials will continue to monitor the situation and we shall take further action as is necessary to ensure that the general public have access to a health service dentist," he said.

Oasis Dental Care has been awarded the contract to provide the dentists.

It owns and operates 170 dental practices throughout England and Wales, providing a combination of NHS and private dental care.

I know that access to health service dentistry has been a matter of concern for many people across Northern Ireland
Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey

The former Western board area will get 16 new dentists - in Enniskillen, Omagh, Strabane and Londonderry.

In the former Northern board area eight dentists have been designated for Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Cookstown.

Bangor/Donaghadee, Holywood, Dundonald/Castlereagh, Lisburn/Dunmurry and Carryduff - in the former Eastern board area -will get 10 dentists.

The former Southern board areas of Banbridge, Dungannon and Newry will each receive funding for two new dentists.

The first of the dentists should start work by the end of this year, probably in Fermanagh, and the others will begin work within 12 months.

The intention is that the dentists will not join existing practices but will instead open new premises.

Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey said: "I know that access to health service dentistry has been a matter of concern for many people across Northern Ireland.

"I am pleased that today I can announce a new contract that will provide access for an additional 57,000 health service patients.

"Oasis Dental Care has extensive expertise and experience in providing dental services to health Trusts across the United Kingdom and the standards they have set are impressive."

Officials at the Department of Health are continuing negotiations with the British Dental Association on a new contract for existing health service dentists in Northern Ireland.

Negotiations have been ongoing since November 2006 and it is hoped that the new contract will be piloted later this year.



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