Labour win the UK general election – the dental profession reacts

Labour win the UK general election – the dental profession reacts

Keir Starmer has led the Labour Party to a landslide win this general election – we speak to dental professionals about how they are feeling towards the victory.

As the polls predicted, Keir Starmer is now Prime Minister after the Labour Party won with a significant majority at yesterday’s general election, currently boasting 412 seats. The party needed 326 for a majority.

We spoke to dental professionals about how they are feeling after the results are now in.

Ruth Baidoo, dentist

There is always so much talk in media about dentists abandoning the NHS and although there may be some truth to this point, there are a plethora of dentists who provide NHS dental services but are tired of the current system.

With that being said, I would love to see some acknowledgement and action from the government concerning the NHS dental contract. There has to be a complete change in how it currently is, it really isn’t sustainable and it hasn’t been for years.

I think many would be surprised to discover that it’s not that dentists don’t want to work within the NHS, but I can personally testify as a dentist who provides treatment through the NHS the system can sometimes make you feel like you’re working with your wings clipped.

Whatever the political outcome for our new government, there must be reform of the current dental system that will be mutually beneficial to the patients who require our services and to us as dentists as well.

Leo Briggs, deputy head of the Dental Defence Union (DDU)

A new government always finds plenty of problems waiting for them on the desk. Sadly, it has become too familiar for us to see a healthcare workforce that is over stretched and under supported. This was reflected in research we carried out of our dental professional members, which found that 96% want politicians to include plans to support the health and wellbeing of the dental workforce.

We urge the new government to roll up its sleeves and deliver for dental professionals. That includes prioritising support for their health and wellbeing, making sure the way they are regulated is fair, proportionate and timely and ensuring every pound possible is spent on patient care, rather than supporting an outdated legal regime for clinical negligence claims.

Nilesh Parmar, dentist

Labour have got a huge majority now, which means policies and laws will be passed through easily.

If you look at their manifesto for dentistry, they are still looking at supervised tooth brushing for three to five year olds, which a lot of teachers have said they simply just don’t have the time to do this.

It’s my belief that good oral hygiene should start at home, so it should be the job of the parents to make sure that the children have brush their teeth. I don’t see why that responsibility lies with teachers.

No nitty gritty from Labour

They have spoken about reforming the NHS dental contract, helping retain NHS dentists and bringing about 700,000 emergency appointments for NHS dentistry. But there’s no protocol on how they’re actually going to do this. How are they going to reform the contract? In what manner are they going to reform the contract?We just don’t know.

So as it currently stands, there is some trepidation, I think, from the profession, because we don’t know exactly what Labour’s plans are. We have an outline, but we don’t actually have the nitty gritty of how they’re planning on doing it.

They have also spoken about £20,000 golden hellos for new graduates who work within underserved areas in the health service. Once you factor in the additional, work, tax rises, and the pain of working in the NHS system as it stands, I don’t see this enticing dentists to working in the NHS.

They need to look at bringing back a fee per item item service with no caps on how much NHS dentistry you do. And they also need to look at bringing hygienists and therapist into the NHS workforce, coupled with crown indemnity for dentists. Dentists working on the health service should have the same medical and legal cover provided by the state that doctors who work in NHS hospitals have.

That’s what I would want them to do, and that’s what they need to look at.

Paul Gallop, dentist

I think that the BDA and groups that represent NHS dentists should have got together ages ago and come up with a plan that they can present to a government – not keep waiting for any government of any colour to keep coming up with various contracts and then complaining about them.

The dentists know what they can do under NHS conditions and underpayments and what they can’t do, and they need to sort it out amongst themselves instead of pretending that there’s no difference between NHS and private dentistry.

Rachel Derby, president of the British Association of Private Dentistry (BAPD)

Believe it or not, the dental contract that Labour brought in in 2006 is now 18 years old. It would legally be allowed to buy an alcoholic beverage, get married and vote in this year’s election! Under Labour, we’ll probably be celebrating the birth of its first child and 10-year wedding anniversary.

While I am sure everyone will agree that a further 14 years under Tory leadership has done little to endear the contract to dentists, it is fair to say that none of the devolved nation’s governments, all with differing socio-economic priorities, have managed the public’s dental health effectively.

The bottom line is that we need reform.

Happier workforce

The current state-sponsored dental offering (NHS dentistry) needs to be reformed as it is clearly not working. If it was then the most common reason for hospital admissions for general anesthetic for five- to 10-year-olds would not be dental decay. All of the devolved governments need to be realistic of what public funds they are willing to commit to dental health and what can be achieved.

Prevention needs to be at the heart of a new contract with fair renumeration. However, most importantly, we need a fair service. In my opinion, given how little funding any of the nations want to spend, the solution would be a core service.

Yet what type of service can we have if we do not have dentists who are willing or able to work in it? This brings me to what I believe is the crux of the situation. We need reform of the 1984 Dentists Act.

As dentists we need to sit with the GDC and government and rework this legislation to improve working conditions for all dental professionals so we cannot be ruled in fear. A happier and more contented work force would ultimately lead to better public dental health.

Claire Stevens, spokesperson for the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD)

The British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) offered its counsel, as the expert voice on children’s oral health, to those responsible for drafting policies across the political spectrum as they started creating their manifesto pledges. In February we issued our blueprint for oral health recovery – and we were pleased to see some of this reflected in their plans, with some taking a specific interest in children’s oral health. 

Keir Starmer and Wes Streeting have, on multiple occasions, talked about their intentions to have a specific focus on paediatric oral health. Now that they have been successful at the polls, BSPD wants to see them deliver on these pledges. We will be holding them to account.

Targeted supervised toothbrushing in schools is a good start, but we need to see an ambition to go beyond this. Wider system reform is critical to trigger and sustain change. So, whilst we welcome the commitments we are hearing to ‘fix the broken contract’, we need to move paediatric dentistry services towards early access and preventively-focused care. We should also ensure each child has a ‘dental home’.

We want a government which commits to dental system reform, engaging with clinical leaders. Prevention has to be the focus with policies like community water fluoridation initiatives in areas of high dental decay going some way to help. Our ask is for targeted, evidence-based interventions to reduce oral health inequalities. Children’s oral health is in crisis and BSPD remains ready to advise and support evidence-based oral health policy to turn this around.

Arian Izadi, dentist

  1. A changed structure of the GDC and NHS dentistry, removing the red tape of obtaining a performer number – too much paperwork. Therapists are providing NHS dentistry without going through this, it’s not equal
  2. Free university for dental students who agree to work as part of the NHS for three years post-graduation
  3. Introduce a fee that practices can charge to patients for missed appointments
  4. Change in mentality – NHS is not God
  5. Both the NHS and GDC should support dentists instead of jumping down dentists’ throat at a sniff of a complaint
  6. Dentist flexibility in offering private, superior treatments, without being scared of complaint – basically so not only cosmetic treatments falls outside of the NHS
  7. Honest communication – tooth through a lifetime needs multiple treatments, starting at filling, which depending on type and modalities or techniques can be massively reduced
  8. The UDA system is wrong. As clinicians taking care of a person, we should not be getting paid on volume of treatment. This encourages money orientated decisions. Doing the right thing has become more and more rare because of it. This type of system is used in Iran
  9. The government/NHS are increasing their fees to the patients to cover inflation, but the UDA value is not increasing. What happens when the amount the patient is paying exceeds UDA payment? Fully private time, right?

Iain Stevenson, head of dental at Wesleyan Financial Services

While the new government means there may now be some changes to tax and savings policy in the pipeline, it’s likely that we will have to wait until September and the first Labour budget to find out what they might be.

The Labour manifesto includes pledges that Income Tax, VAT and National Insurance will be left unchanged. But it also contains a number of spending commitments that may require higher wealth-based taxes such as Capital Gains Tax or Inheritance Tax to deliver.

While Labour dropped its plan to bring back the Lifetime Allowance during its election campaign, it still intends to review and potentially reform the pensions system. At this stage, it’s not clear what this could include, but we would suggest that any pension reform must go beyond just fiddling round the edges and instead focus on more root-and-branch changes that deliver real simplification.

This could help drive greater engagement with retirement planning, as well as better, fairer outcomes for pension savers. What we don’t need is another review that adds more complexity at a time when dentists are already wrestling with recent changes to the NHS pension scheme.

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