More than 2,000 dentists quit NHS in last year, figures show

More than 2,000 dentists quit NHS in last year, figures showThousands of dentists have moved away from NHS dentistry in the last year, new figures suggest.

The number of dentists providing NHS treatment fell from 23,733 at the end of 2020 to 21,544 at the end of January 2022 – the lowest level in a decade.

Obtained by the Association of Dental Groups (ADG) via Freedom of Information, the new report marks another blow to NHS dental access across the UK.

Last year, the top 10 areas with the lowest number of NHS dentists per 100,000 were:

  • North Lincolnshire CCG –32 NHS dentists
  • North East Lincolnshire CCG – 37 NHS dentists
  • East Riding of Yorkshire CCG – 37 NHS dentists
  • Lincolnshire CCG – 38 NHS dentists
  • Norfolk and Waveney CCG – 38 NHS dentists
  • North Staffordshire CCG – 40 NHS dentists
  • Portsmouth CCG – 42 NHS dentists
  • Halton CCG – 42 NHS dentists
  • Stoke on Trent CCG – 43 NHS dentists
  • NE London CCG –43 NHS dentists.

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Tackling inequalities in NHS dentistry

The ADG report cites Brexit, Covid-19 and new ways of working as reasons for dental teams turning away from the health service.

The figures were slammed by Neil Carmichael, chair of the ADG, who calls for further investment to battle growing inequalities.

‘Dental deserts not only stretch across the whole of the east of England from East Yorkshire, through Lincolnshire and down to Norfolk but are now emerging in many other “red wall” constituencies that the government wishes to “level up”,’ he said.

‘Our fears of an exodus from NHS dentistry are proving to be founded and the number of NHS dentists working in England is now at the lowest level for a decade.

‘We welcome the government’s commitment to reform of the recruitment and registration of overseas dentists. What needs to follow is NHS dental contract reform and investment in our future domestic workforce. Only when this happens will we have a chance of tackling the oral health inequalities of England.’

Painting over the cracks

Shawn Charlwood is chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee. He said: ‘Dentists are simply not seeing a future in the NHS, with a broken contract pushing out talent every day it remains in force.

‘Millions are going without the care they need, and quick fixes are no substitute for real reform and fair funding. If ministers try to move forward without fixing a rotten system they will just be painting over the cracks.

‘Contract reform isn’t an optional extra. It’s the necessary starting point to save NHS dentistry.’

You can read the full report here.

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