Dental profession bites back at claims NHS dentistry is ‘recovering’

Dental professions bites back at claims NHS dentistry is 'recovering'

The British Dental Association has urged parliament to set out a clear roadmap to reform for government after it tried to ‘defend the indefensible’. 

The inquiry into the state of NHS dentistry continued as the Health and Social Care Committee heard more oral evidence yesterday (25 April).

The BDA disputed claims made by MP Neil O’Brien that NHS dentistry was on the road to ‘recovery’.

The minister repeatedly spoke of NHS activity rising by ‘a fifth’ in the last year.

But dental leaders stress this ‘growth’ is based on comparing 2021/22 figures with the depths activity fell to during the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Reeking of desperation’

The BDA has seen official data suggesting just 75% of contracted UDA activity was delivered in the eleven months to the end of February this year.

However, levels were normally well in excess of 95% of contracted amounts before the pandemic, the BDA understands.

The BDA said the government’s pledge to develop a recovery plan for dentistry just ahead of the evidence session was ‘reeking of desperation’.

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Dental charge hike

This comes as NHS dental charges see a 8.5% hike – the largest on record, and greater than those recently set for both prescriptions (3.2%) and eye tests (4.5%).

The BDA wrote an open letter to the government, urging it to source a sustainable funding model and halt any plans for additional hikes.

It reads: ‘The result is that NHS bridges, crowns or dentures now cost £306.80 in England compared to £203.00 in Wales.

‘You have a duty to explain to the public why patients in England must pay over £100 more for exactly the same NHS care.’

Urgent reform needed

British Dental Association chair Eddie Crouch said: ‘Witnesses tried to defend the indefensible, attempting to put a gloss on the government’s record.

‘It won’t wash. NHS dentistry needs urgent reform, it’s got tweaks. It requires sustainable funding, instead we’ve got a charge hike that’s hit the patients who need us most.

‘An exodus of dentists is still in motion, and millions remain unable to secure the care they need.

‘The committee can draw a line under this and set an urgent “to do list” for government.’

Nigel Jones, sales and marketing director at Practice Plan, said: ‘We need a serious discussion about workforce planning and the challenges presented by the competition for associate dentists and dental nurses.

‘The cost of recruiting and retaining staff is heaping ever more pressure on practices at a time when they are already experiencing elevated running costs, including energy bills.

‘Many practices delivering NHS care are hanging on by a thread. If they lose an associate, it is nigh on impossible to replace them and there’s the danger they will miss their activity targets and face financial penalties.

‘A key question will be how, in the face of competition from private practices, we can make NHS dentistry sufficiently attractive to appeal to homegrown dentists, as well as those who could come from abroad to help maintain service levels.’

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