Written answers

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
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151. To ask the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on implementation of the National Oral Health Policy; the progress to date on reforming the dental treatment services scheme; the steps that are being taken to address the difficulties faced by medical card patients accessing dental services in some areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46357/22]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) provides dental care free of charge to medical card holders aged 16 and over. Both I and the Government have been concerned for some time that medical card patients in some parts of the country have been experiencing problems in accessing dental services. The problem became particularly acute over the last couple of years as a significant number of contracted dentists chose to opt out of the DTSS. 

I secured an additional €10 million in Budget 2022 to provide for expanded dental health care for medical card holders including the reintroduction of Scale and Polish. To address the concerns of contractors about the viability of the Scheme, I am using an estimated €16 million of an underspend in this year’s estimate allocation (€56 million) to award fee increases across a number of items including fillings. The combination of these two measures represents an estimated total additional investment of €26 million in the Scheme this year over and above what was spent on the Scheme in 2021, €40 million.

Following consultation with the Irish Dental Association, these new measures came into effect on 1st May. I would hope that this substantial additional investment in the Scheme will encourage more and more dentists to provide care to medical card patients. The numbers of patients being seen and the numbers of treatments being provided under the DTSS have started to increase in recent months. Patients are also accessing the preventative scale and polish which has been reintroduced, which is a positive development.

These are interim measures designed to address immediate concerns with the Scheme pending a more substantive reform of dental services. It is my intention that this is addressed in the context of the implementation of the National Oral Health Policy, which sets out a body of substantial services reform. Work is underway on a governance framework for this root and branch service reform.

I have been assured by the HSE that their local services on the ground will assist any persons who are still experiencing problems in accessing a service.


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