Calls for NHS England to set out next steps for dental services

The government has called on NHS England to set out the next steps to secure sustainable and efficient dental servicesA parliamentary committee is calling on NHS England to set out the next steps to secure sustainable and efficient dental services.

Published today (1 October), the Commons Health and Social Care Committee said it was ‘concerned’ over the lack of plan regarding the restoration of dental services in England.

As a result, it is calling for the government and NHS England to take action. For example, it recommends that the challenges faced by dentistry should be assessed and set out by CDO Sara Hurley.

It also urges for clarification on how dental services will meet patient demand ‘in the safest way possible’ – while also being financially sustainable.

Threat to services

Providing evidence to the committee earlier this year, the British Dental Association (BDA) described lockdown services as ‘virtually non-existent’. And highlighted the significant threat to services going forward.

The association welcomes the latest calls for action.

‘Dentistry effectively ceased to exist under lockdown. We are still a long way from normal service levels,’ said newly-elected BDA chair, Eddie Crouch.

‘Access remains a huge challenge for millions. So it’s only right that officials show they appreciate the challenges we now face. There is an opportunity here to work with the profession to develop a plan that meets patient needs for years to come and moves us away from a discredited system.

‘Sticking plaster policies will not get us through this. We need a real willingness to move on from over a decade of failed contracts and underinvestment.’

Severe disruptions

The select committee heard a selection of evidence suggesting that dental services in England were severely disrupted as a result of COVID-19.

This included the estimation that more than eight million dental treatments were cancelled during the pandemic.

Speaking at a committee meeting in June, outgoing BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, said: ‘Where [dental practices] may have seen 15 patients a day, they will now see five.

‘The only thing I can say is that they have the ability to pass on those increased costs to patients. Whether that makes dentistry unaffordable is an entirely separate matter.’

The report can be read here. 

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