Most patients 'happy' with dentists
Almost nine in 10 patients in Northern Ireland are satisfied with their dentist, a survey has found.
Despite this, many felt some sections of the community like migrants and rural dwellers were disadvantaged by the current system, with some having to travel a considerable distance for NHS treatment, the Patient and Client Council study added.
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has recently made an additional investment of £17 million for general dental services to ease problems of access, the full impact of which has yet to be realised.
The department is negotiating a new general dental contract with the British Dental Association (BDA).
Stella Cunningham, southern area manager at the council, said: "Many patients are happy with the service but costs can put some people off from seeking treatment, and the current registration system is not clear to people.
"Better information about how the system works and good practice in terms of reminding people about lapse in registration or forthcoming appointments would promote a greater sense of partnership between patient and professional."
Chief dental officer Donncha O'Carolan said: "It is reassuring to read that patients express a high level of satisfaction with dental services and this is consistent with other surveys undertaken by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
"It is also important for policymakers and commissioners to be aware of the problems that patients are experiencing, such as confusion over whether treatment is being provided privately or under the health service and issues around registration with a health service dentist.
"We can use these and other findings to influence policy decisions, contract arrangements and guidance to ensure that such issues are addressed to meet the needs of patients and the dental profession, and provide a better service for all."