I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 70 and 78 together.
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 also 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 and restorations.
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.
The changes to the Scheme, are interim measures designed to secure services for medical card holders pending a more substantive reform of dental services to align with the National Oral Health Policy. Work on that longer-term project has already commenced and it is estimated it will take 1-2 years to complete.
The HSE will assist anyone who is still experiencing problems accessing a service.