HSE figures show that the number of dentists participating in the scheme has dropped by over a third in five years

The exodus of dentists from the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) requires an immediate intervention from the Minister for Health, according to Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD.

HSE figures obtained by Deputy Shortall reveal that the number of dentists participating in the DTSS has dropped by over a third in five years.

“These figures show that 604 dentists have left the scheme since January 2017, and since January 2021, 251 dentists have left.

“In some areas, the situation is particularly stark. The number of dentists participating in the scheme has halved since 2021 in Wexford, Meath and Laois/Offaly, while in Dublin South East, only seven dentists remain in the scheme, a drop of 47 since 2016.

“It is clear from these figures that the scheme is close to collapse, yet we seem no closer to the reform needed to ensure that all medical card holders have access to dental treatments.

“The changes to the scheme announced last April amount to little more than tinkering around the edges. While the additional €9 million announced in Budget 2023 is welcome, it’s simply not enough to overhaul the scheme.

“Root and branch reform is required to bridge the gap between the current fees and the costs incurred by dentists, along with meaningful engagement with the Irish Dental Association.

“This is the only way to attract enough dentists into the scheme.

“Alongside the present crisis in the DTSS, there is also a looming recruitment and retention crisis in dentistry which threatens the long-term viability of public oral health services.

“Like in so many other healthcare disciplines, there is an absence of workforce planning in the Department of Health and very little engagement with the Department of Further Education to futureproof services.

“If we are only producing around 90 dentists a year, and many of these are leaving our shores, then it’s blatantly obvious that we need to invest in our dental schools to increase output and ensure that they are not reliant on students from outside the EEA to generate income, as is currently the case.

“These issues in dentistry cannot be allowed to deteriorate any further. We need the Minister for Health to show some urgency.”

October 13, 2022

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