NHS dentistry in crisis: Dentists respond to Times investigation on access
The British Dental Association (BDA) has responded to an investigation by the Times that shows that in 24 local authorities in England dentists can only take on private patients.
Of those surgeries with information on NHS Choices, the study found 49 per cent are currently unable to take on new adult NHS patients, while some 42 per cent are unable to see new children at all.
The investigation suggests areas including West Devon, North Lincolnshire, Gosport, Barrow-in-Furness and Stafford are unable to take on any adult NHS patients at all.
The BDA has long criticised the cost limited funding system for dentistry that can provide care for little over half the population. Targets for activity are set in contracts – dentists are penalised if they fail to meet targets, but are not paid if they exceed them, even if they have capacity to meet patient demand.
The BDA has expressed concern that the government is failing to honour two successive manifesto pledges to make a decisive break from the target driven contract system introduced in 2006. It has questioned responses from NHS England, which suggest that new initiatives such as ‘Starting Well’, which target high needs children in just 13 local authorities, will meaningfully expand access.
This unfunded programme has no new resource to provide additional access in any high needs areas, and in the capital is believed to be operating in just three wards in the London Borough of Ealing. The BDA has said vital work that encourages childhood attendance and improves access cannot rely on recycling existing limited budgets.
The BDA’s chair of General Dental Practice Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen said,“When dental care is being commissioned for just half the population it’s not surprising that millions of patients risk missing out.
“Access problems are now hitting patients across England, but officials would rather brush them off than fix the rotten system at their heart.
“Work on expanding access and encouraging child attendance is vital, but it is disingenuous to suggest that government plans can achieve this. Without new resources NHS dentists are being asked to swap one group of patients for another.
“This isn’t about dentists turning their back on NHS dentistry. For over a decade this failed system has turned its back on them.”