New parliamentary inquiry could save NHS dentistry

‘The last best hope to save the service’: parliament has launched a new inquiry into the state of NHS dentistry following alarming statistics.

The Health and Social Care Committee has launched a new inquiry into NHS dentistry.

This comes after an investigation showed that 90% of dental practices across the UK were not accepting new adult NHS patients.

The inquiry will assess to what extent the NHS dental contract ‘disincentivises dentists from taking on new patients’. MPs will also look at incentives to recruit and retain NHS dental professionals.

In addition, the inquiry will explore the possible impact of changes being implemented in April 2023. These include making new Integrated Care Systems and Integrated Care Boards responsible for the provision of dental services.

This inquiry follows the introduction of new changes to dental contract last month, including a new ‘find a dentist’ website and a higher reward for treating three or more teeth.

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Hope to millions

The BDA has said that this inquiry ‘may represent a last best hope to save the service.’ It also stressed that, ‘real scrutiny is now essential to draw a line under the government’s poverty of ambition on reform’.

Following ‘savage cuts’ and with inflation increasing, the BDA has calculated that it would take an additional outlay of nearly £0.5 billion a year to maintain spending power. In addition, it would take an additional £1.5 billion to restore NHS dentistry resources to 2010 levels.

Shawn Charlwood, chair of the BDA general dental practice committee said: ‘This inquiry offers hope to millions of patients left with no options.

‘NHS dentistry faces a man-made crisis, the net result of a decade of choices made in Westminster.

‘To date, ministers have simply tinkered at the margins. A failed, underfunded system demands real scrutiny and real reform.’

The committee is accepting evidence for this inquiry and ‘wants to hear your views’. You can submit evidence and read more about the inquiry here.

Political nettle

Neil Carmichael is chair of the ADG and welcomed the inquiry. He  said: ‘Dental deserts 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’ – coupled with the number of NHS dentists working in England at the lowest level for five years.

‘The chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee has grasped the political nettle that has been avoided for nearly a decade – asking the two key questions – does the NHS dental contract need further reform, and what can be done to recruit and retain dental professionals.

‘I look forward to presenting ADG members’ evidence to the Inquiry in the new year.’

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