GPs handling dental overflow ‘will lead to increased health inequalities’

GPs are being ‘inappropriately’ called upon to prescribe and treat dental conditions – contributing to growing health inequalities, a conference heard today.

At the Local Medical Committee Conference in Newport this morning, one doctor, GP Leanne Eddie, detailed an incident where a colleague prescribed antibiotics for an abscess that turned out to be oral cancer.

Eddie, who tabled the motion, said: ‘If GPs continue to handle dental overflow, health inequality will worsen.’

Key motions at the conference were:

Conference therefore:

  • Recognises that general practitioners are not contracted, funded, qualified or indemnified to treat dental conditions and calls upon GPC UK to reiterate this to the Departments of Health and NHS organisations in all four nations
  • Calls upon GPC UK to voice support for our dental colleagues and lobby the Departments of Health in all four nations for an appropriately remunerated dental service including full emergency provision
  • Spports general practitioners in refusing to see or treat dental conditions in line with GMC standards of Good Medical Practice
  • Calls upon the UK government to adequately fund a media campaign educating the general public on appropriately accessing dental health care.

The British Dental Association (BDA) has said which ever party forms the next government must step up to end the huge knock-on effects the crisis in dentistry is having across the health service.

Dental charges and ongoing access problems have long pushed patients from high street dentistry to GPs, says the BDA, with studies estimating around 380,000 attendances a year pre-COVID.


BDA chair Eddie Crouch said: ‘This government’s neglect of dentistry is having a domino effect across the NHS.

‘Millions of patients have nowhere to go, and it’s piling extra pressure on already overstretched GPs, who are neither trained nor equipped to help them. It will take real reform and investment to halt the exodus from NHS dentistry and lift these unnecessary burdens from our family doctors.’

The dental profession has also warned that plans for the provisional registration of overseas dentists poses ‘significant risk’ to patients – as well as an increased workload for UK-based dentists who opt in.

The plans have been put forward to help overseas dentists start work in the UK more quickly.

The General Dental Council (GDC) last week published its response to the government’s provisional registration proposal, calling it a ‘valuable opportunity’ for overseas clinicians.

However, the regulator stressed the importance of the proposed legislation providing the right framework. It called for further work for them to develop the rules and system in collaboration with other stakeholders.

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