NHS dentists feel ‘chewed up and spat out’, BDA warns MPs

The BDA has spoken to MPs about the urgent NHS dentistry crisis, highlighting the desperate need for government support.

Shawn Charlwood, chair of the BDA General Dental Practice Committee, warned MPs that NHS dentistry is at death’s door.

Some 3,000 dentists have moved from NHS to private dentistry in just the last two years. Up and down the country, dentists are feeling frustrated at the current state of the system.

NHS dentists are reportedly feeling ‘chewed up and spat out’, and the BDA believes many more will continue to cut ties with the NHS if little changes.

Shawn stated to the Health and Social Care Committee: ‘In NHS dentistry particularly we are facing a crisis – the likes of which I haven’t seen in my 35 years in the profession’.

He continued: ‘NHS dentists are genuinely struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel’.

An exacerbated system

The crisis has resulted in practices across the country failing to fill vacancies for up to a year. In London alone, there is currently an average of five vacancies for every applicant.

The issue is not a shortage of dentists available to work, but rather a shortage of dentists willing to work in the exacerbated NHS system.

Ultimately, dentists are suffering in a system which fails to value or reward their work. A dentist reportedly earned a mere nine pounds from a day’s hard work due to the failing structure of the system.

Shawn stated: ‘Younger dentists have told us they are fed up with this broken system; morale has hit rock bottom, the pressures of working under Covid have been too great.’

He continued: ‘This can only go on for so long and obviously we can’t have NHS dentistry without any NHS dentists’.

The pandemic worsened the crisis after a year’s worth of dentistry was lost, creating an overwhelming backlog of appointments.

NHS patients and dentists alike are struggling. The inaccessibility of NHS dentistry has driven some patients to pull out their own teeth in desperation.

Unfit for purpose – how can it be saved?

In 2008, the BDA committee reported that NHS dentistry was unfit for purpose. The government was advised to reform, yet 14 years later the situation continues to worsen.

Shawn stated: ‘It has been allowed to whither on the vine, and today’s crisis is the result. This must not continue’.

He warned MPs that the NHS dentistry crisis will worsen if they continue to ignore their report and advice.

In order to save the situation, Shawn stated: ‘We need a new non-UDA contract for NHS dentistry by April 2023 at the latest’.

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