The Dentist Magazine.

'Abject failure' from government driving child hospital admissions

Published: 14/11/2017

The British Dental Association has responded to figures from the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at The Royal College of Surgeons suggesting the number of children under the age of 10 needing hospital treatment because of tooth decay is twice as high as those needing care for broken arms. 

The BDA has strongly criticised the lack of a coherent national strategy or programme to improve decay rates among children in England. For more than a decade Scotland’s Childsmile programme and the Welsh Designed to Smile initiative have secured transformative improvements in oral health. MPs will discuss child oral health during a parliamentary debate tomorrow.

NHS England’s recently launched Starting Well programme has activity in just 13 local authorities, with no new funding attached and with the programme in London limited to just three council wards in the London Borough of Ealing. The Government has refused to answer parliamentary questions on how many children across England will benefit.

The BDA had expressed support for another pillar of the government’s approach to child oral health - the recently launched Dental Check by 1 (DCby1) campaign - but expressed its dismay that no new investment is attached to the project, and has noted that lack of capacity in areas including West Yorkshire will set real limits on what can be achieved with the policy.

The British Dental Association's chair of general dental practice, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said, “These shocking statistics are rooted in an abject failure by government to tackle a preventable disease.

“While we are hearing positive noises, ministers have not met words with action. Scotland and Wales have dedicated national programmes to improve children’s oral health; England has been offered a new logo and limited action in a handful of council wards.

“It’s a scandal that when some local authorities are doing sterling work, others are sitting on their hands while Westminster offers radio silence.

“We urgently need to see more children attending, but ministers cannot expect to make real headway by simply recycling a flat lining budget. Yes it is right to encourage toddlers to attend an NHS dentist, but words will ring hollow in areas like West Yorkshire where patients of all ages are already experiencing serious access problems.”