Nine in 10 practices falsely categorised as ‘accepting NHS patients’, says BDA

Nine in 10 practices falsely categorised as 'accepting NHS patients', says BDA

An investigation found that out of 100 practices categorised as accepting NHS patients, only 10 actually had capacity to do so.

In April, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that almost 500 more practices were accepting new adult patients across England compared to January. The DHSC claimed that this increase was as a result of the NHS dental recovery plan, saying: ‘Our dental recovery plan is making it easier to see an NHS dentist.’

Public health minister Andrea Leadsom said: ‘According to NHS England, over 5,000 dental contracts have treated new patients since the start of March. And almost 500 additional dental practices have said they are accepting new adult patients on the NHS Find a Dentist website. This is great progress.’

The British Dental Association (BDA) said it was able to identify and call 100 of the 500 practices this referred to, but only 10% were in a position to accept new patients.

One practice reportedly said it was closing within a month, with others declaring two-year waiting lists. The BDA also described a practice which had no capacity but said it would consider seeing patients in ’10/10′ pain as a one off.

‘Rishi Sunak is lying’

The association believes that the government has ‘changed the definition of access’ to NHS to dentistry to reach their statistics. It said that practices are now being asked if they are ‘accepting new NHS patients when availability allows’.

The BDA called this approach ‘actively unhelpful’ as it gives patients ‘false hope’. It continued: ‘This new status is effectively measuring whether practices “want” to take on new patients, not if they actually can at this time.’

BDA chair Eddie Crouch said: ‘Rather than trying to end the crisis in NHS dentistry, government simply moved the goalposts on how it’s measured. Ministers can change the definition of “access”, but it hasn’t altered the grim reality facing millions. Our patients have been offered false hope, when they need a serious plan to keep this service afloat.’

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting also responded to the findings. He said: ‘Any patient who has tried to get an appointment can see that Rishi Sunak is lying.’

‘A bad joke from the outset’

This comes as a practice visited by Rishi Sunak in February has announced it will be dropping all adult NHS patients.

When the Prime Minister met staff and patients at Gentle Dental in Newquay, it emerged that it was not accepting new NHS patients over 18. Though Sunak promised ‘very significant’ action to solve the NHS dental crisis, the practice will now stop offering adult NHS dental services.

The BDA said this was the fault of the government’s ‘wholly inadequate’ recovery plan. Eddie Crouch said: ‘The government’s so-called ‘recovery plan’ has been a bad joke from the outset, and this appears to be the punchline.

‘The lesson here for all parties is that spin is no substitute for meaningful reform.’

Representatives of both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats said that the upcoming general election is an opportunity to reduce pressure on the NHS.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said: ‘There are now ten days left to save the NHS. This election is a chance to bring an end to the shocking scenes of people having to wait hours outside in the cold.’

Wes Streeting also commented: ‘It’s virtually impossible to get a dentist appointment after 14 years of Conservative neglect. People are resorting to pulling their own teeth out. DIY dentistry should be the stuff of Charles Dickens’ books, not Britain in 2024.

‘The Conservatives have taken NHS dentistry to death’s door and given another five years in charge, they will kill it off.’

Both opposition parties laid out plans for NHS dentistry in their manifestos, while the Conservatives’ dental pledges centre around the existing recovery plan.

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