The Dentist Magazine.

BDA: Savage public health cuts perverse

Published: 1/9/2019 12:00:00 AM

The British Dental Association (BDA) has slammed news that the government will proceed with £85 million of cuts to public health grants, which have disproportionately hit oral health services. 

Local authorities in England are responsible for public health, but the BDA believe councils have been denied resources to make an effective stand against preventable conditions like tooth decay and obesity. 

130 out of 152 local authorities (85 per cent) reduced their public health budgets in 2018/19. Studies by the Kings Fund have found the single biggest areas for cuts have been miscellaneous services, including dental public health. 

Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children, with paediatric tooth extractions costing the NHS £205 million since 2012. Effective long-term investment in early years oral health programmes in nurseries and primary schools in Scotland has shaved millions off treatment costs. While these policies have been adopted in nations from Chile to Israel, the vast majority of local authorities in England continue to lack resources to embrace similar models.  

British Dental Association chair, Mick Armstrong, said, “Matt Hancock says he wants prevention to be the focus of a 21st century NHS. Public health should be the foundation for that approach, but in place of investment Westminster has simply devolved savage cuts. 

“It’s utterly perverse that wholly preventable conditions are now going effectively unchecked. Starving local authorities of needed resources is hopelessly short-sighted, and is only piling pressure on NHS services. 

“The NHS70 birthday present makes for nice headlines, but the reality is ministers giving with one hand while taking away with the other.”