Progress is being made as the Department of Health continues to respond to the challenges of providing NHS dental care following recruitment difficulties.
In October 2012 the Department of Health invited those people who had, up to 9 October, enquired about being allocated an NHS dentist to an oral health screening. The screening was carried out by dental practitioners at the Community Health Centre Dental Clinic in Douglas and was completed in late February. The screening programme was undertaken to determine the clinical priority for treatment for patients as well as providing accurate information on the number of people who actually wish to be allocated an NHS dentist for ongoing care.
During the oral health screening appointments, patients were assessed and placed into one of three categories depending on their oral health needs. The categories were those patients with an urgent need for treatment (category one); those who require routine treatment (category two); and those who appear to currently not need any treatment (category three). All patients who attended an oral health screening appointment and were placed into category one have either been allocated to an NHS dentist or will receive allocation to a NHS dentist shortly in order that they may receive treatment in the coming weeks. In addition, the Department is considering the options currently available to allocate a dentist to those patients in category two.
Completion of screening comes following a further recruitment campaign for both short-term and permanent dentists, with interviews scheduled for later in March. The recent recruitment process is an attempt to resolve a long standing staff shortage, although recruitment of additional dentists is only one of a number of options being progressed by the Department. In the meantime, three locum dentists are being employed.
The shortage of dentists resulted in the suspension of routine check-ups in mid-January; however plans are now underway which will involve existing staff working extended hours. The additional sessions will be reserved for patients who have requested check-up appointments, with priority being given to those patients who have waited longest. Staff will be in touch with patients individually, to make an appointment and for those who require any follow up treatment.
Minister for Health, David Anderson MHK said: “The Department has worked diligently to try and resolve the recruitment difficulties facing the Island’s Salaried Dental Service. It is hoped the most recent recruitment campaign will help alleviate the problem and restore capacity in the system for routine check-ups. In the meantime however, by having negotiated additional working hours with the dental practitioners, the Department will be able to commence offering routine check-ups in the near future. I welcome these developments which are clearly steps in the right direction; and I would like to thank the public for their patience whilst the Department continues its work to address the difficult issues of recruitment in what is a very competitive job market.”