HEALTH Minister Robin Swann has announced funding of £1.5million to help improve patient throughput at dental surgeries in Northern Ireland.
The risk of Coronavirus transmission in dental practices has been minimised using strict infection control measures but these have significantly reduced the number of patients that dentists can see each day.
The new grant scheme is designed to provide financial support for dental practices for upgrading or installing new ventilation systems which will increase the volume of treatment and care provided to patients and help reduce the number of patients who have been unable to obtain appointments.
The funding is in addition to the £44million already allocated through the Financial Support Scheme (FSS) since April 2020 to General Dental Services.
Minister Swann said: “General Dental Services have faced a range of challenges during the pandemic and one of the most pronounced has been the significant reduction in patient throughput due to enhanced infection prevention control procedures.
“A lot of dental treatments produce aerosols that need time to settle before the treatment room can be cleaned and disinfected. Better ventilation speeds up aerosol clearance and means less downtime between patients.”
Activity levels in dental practices are currently around 40% of those seen prior to the pandemic.
Dentists are being asked to prioritise patients so that those with pressing oral health needs are seen first.
This may mean that some routine aspects of care and treatment are deferred, such as check-ups and tooth cleaning, but the picture varies from practice to practice so patients should check the situation with their practice.
All patients who are worried about their oral health, particularly those with an ulcer of more than three weeks duration, with a lump or with a red or white patch that has recently appeared should contact their dentist promptly for advice.
General Dental Practices will be notified directly about the new grant scheme from the Health and Social Care Board in the coming days.