Those aged 18 and under are in Northern Ireland entitled to have their oral care funded by the health service. This care is typically provided by general dental practitioners – independent contractors – who operate on a for-profit basis. While equal access to funding exists, because care is delivered by independent contractors there is no guarantee of equal access to care in the presence of equal need. Indeed, as evidenced by wide variations in registration rates across Northern Ireland, and wide variations in registration rates both linked to deprivation, there is clear evidence of unequal access relative to need. An examination of registration alone however, provides a very incomplete picture of access to services or differences in the intensity or type of services provided. The primary objective of the proposed project is to analyse a dataset formed by linkage of the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS) and the reimbursement of general dentist practitioner data collected by the Central Services Agency (CSA).
The proposed study will for the first time provide information about the individual user and non-user of publicly funded general dental practitioner services in Northern Ireland. This will be used to examine the relationships between use of services including the type of service used, individual socio-demographic characteristics, access to services and area characteristics associated with use and non-use of services. These analyses should better inform health policy makers, service commissioners and the dental profession about the reasons underlying differential use, its impact and how best it might be overcome. At a time when a new dental contract is under development clearly such an analysis is of significant potential benefit for policy purposes. The study will be undertaken examining the relationships for NILS members born between 1990/1991 and 1991/92 and still alive in 2007/2008 – i.e. those aged between 17 and 18 in 2008.
Telford, C., Murray, L., Donaldson, M., O’Neill, C. (2011) An analysis examining socio-economic variations in the provision of NHS general dental practitioner care under a fee for service contract among adolescents: Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0528.2011.00649.x.
NILS Research Brief 11: Variation in dental care provision among adolescents.