Oral health emphasised in Northern Ireland health funding report
BELFAST, UK: Recent statistics from the Health and Social Care Board have revealed that children in Northern Ireland are three times more likely to have had primary teeth removed than children in England, pointing to possible oral health inequalities in the UK. In promising news, however, a report on health funding has recommended that a new oral health strategy should be developed for Northern Ireland in collaboration with dental professionals.
Health Funding in Northern Ireland was published earlier this month by the Northern Ireland (NI) Affairs Committee, a cross-party committee appointed by the UK Parliament’s House of Commons. The report refers repeatedly to the poor oral health outcomes faced by the country’s population, outlining how, in the most recent Children’s Dental Health Survey, 19% of children aged 5 showed signs of severe or extensive dental caries.
The report criticised the current oral health strategy in Northern Ireland, stating that it “does not contain any up-to-date targets for optimising services and improving outcomes”. It then suggested that a “fresh direction and impetus are needed to improve Northern Ireland’s oral health”. The report continued: “This will not be achieved with a piecemeal approach, but requires an overarching, evidence-based strategy with associated targets to work towards.” This oral health strategy, according to the committee, should be ready in draft form by early 2021.
“We very much welcome the focus this NI Affairs Committee report rightly places on oral health in Northern Ireland, in particular where significant gaps and challenges remain,” said Dr Caroline Lappin, interim Chair of the British Dental Association’s NI Council.
“As what is effectively the only democratic scrutiny committee overseeing health policy in Northern Ireland at present, it makes the remarks all the more significant. We clearly welcome the committee’s unequivocal recommendation, and the logic underpinning this, as to why a new oral health strategy for Northern Ireland, to be developed in collaboration with the dental profession, is necessary,” Lappin continued.