Government ‘effectively said it cannot afford NHS dentistry’, says BDA

Maybe NHS dentistry is part of a different NHS that the politicians forgot to tell us (and the public) about, Kevin Lewis wonders.

The government has ‘effectively told the profession it cannot afford NHS dentistry’ as it prepares to impose an approach to pay, says the British Dental Association (BDA).

After publicly accepting the independent pay review body’s recommendation of a pay increase of 6%, the BDA says the Department of Health has refused to reflect the soaring operating costs of delivering NHS care.

It is imposing a rock bottom uplift of 3.23% to cover expenses. This leaves a total uplift in NHS contract values of 5.13%.

Based on survey data measuring the costs facing practices, the BDA estimate a total uplift of 8.3% as a bare minimum requirement. This would allow the service to stand still with the promised 6% pay rise.

In its conversations with the government the BDA say officials categorically accepted that its figure of 3.23% is not based on hard evidence of the levels of costs facing practices, but rather reflects what the government felt it could afford.

It broke from its usual model of using CPI inflation to establish the costs of delivering NHS dentistry, which would have generated an uplift of 8.7%. Instead, the department chose another measure – the GDP deflator. The BDA dubbed it ‘a cynical measure designed purely to keep costs down’.

Forced move to private

The uplift leaves a gap of more than £100m in the NHS budget. In its warnings to ministers, the BDA argues that this will only accelerate the push to private.

Shawn Charlwood is chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee. He said: ‘If government can’t afford NHS dentistry, dentists can’t be expected to prop it up out of their own pockets.

‘This penny pinching will derail the promised “recovery plan”. It’s an insult that will force practices to increase private work simply to stay afloat.’

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