NHS dental recovery plan could be unreliable, government admits

The government gave ‘evasive and inaccurate answers’ regarding NHS dentistry at today’s Health and Social Care Committee hearing, the profession has said. 

This is according to the British Dental Association (BDA), which had representatives attend the meeting.

According to the association, minister Andrea Leadsom failed to outline exactly how the new NHS dental recovery plan will generate millions of new appointments, as claimed in the government report.

Leadsom said: ‘…it’s not an exact science,’ and that ‘it’s a complicated set of factors… with quite a high likelihood of not being reliable’.

Also during the hearing, Leadsom stated that there are more than 60,000 dental therapists ‘waiting in the wings’. However, according to the BDA, the real number is 6,198.

In addition, she claimed that NHS dentistry is free for pregnant women suffering from oral health problems, but the association has pointed out that more than one million new mums have lost access to dental care since lockdown with no extension to these NHS charge exemptions.

As a result, the BDA has criticised the ‘continued spin’ on the recovery plan, calling for the government to focus on ‘making a decisive break’ from the current NHS dental contract.

While Leadsom recognised the need to break with the contact, the BDA have highlighted that the recovery plan fails to reflect this. In addition, the minister reportedly failed to show any sense of urgency during the hearing.

‘Peddling myths’

Shawn Charlwood, chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, gave oral evidence at the hearing today.

Commenting on the hearing, he said: ‘As long as government place pedalling myths ahead of delivering real change, we will keep seeing Victorian dentistry in this country.

‘Today we heard a long list of vague and inaccurate figures. 

‘Government has to stop spinning and rip up the rotten contract fuelling this crisis.’

This comes after a new national survey found that only 1% of dentists trust the recovery plan. The survey, which had a total of 1,104 general dental practitioners throughout England, suggests that the profession’s opinion of the dental recovery plan is overwhelmingly negative.

Responses also show that only 3% believe the plan will result in their practice seeing more NHS patients. In addition, a further 43% thought it would instead lead to the practice seeing fewer NHS patients.

The government will continue talks on NHS dental reform on 27 March.

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