I propose to take Questions Nos. 744 to 746, inclusive, together.
The Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) provides dental care, free of charge to medical card holders aged 16 and over. These services are provided by independent dental practitioners who have a contract with the HSE.
My Department has been engaging with dentists throughout the current Covid-19 pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, provision of dental services was restricted under legislation. Thanks to the efforts of the dental profession, working with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, revised guidance was provided which allowed for the resumption of the safe provision of routine care in May 2020.
In that respect, I am advised by the HSE that services are now operating at close to ninety percent of pre-Covid levels which is a significant achievement on everyone’s part.
I met with representatives of the dental profession towards the end of last year when I had an opportunity to hear first-hand the challenges which they face under Covid, and the enormous efforts of their members in continuing to provide services in the current environment.
I accept that the profession has concerns about the current contract, which dates back to the nineties, and that that one of those concerns relates to the fee structure under the Dental Treatment Services Scheme.
I want to ensure the sustainability and viability of that contract going forward and that all eligible persons can continue to receive the services that they deserve from their local dentists.
I have asked my officials and the HSE to bring forward proposals to address those immediate concerns. In the longer term, my commitment to the profession and to the public is for a fundamental review of the contract, in keeping with Smile agus Sláinte, the National Oral Health Policy.