NHS dentistry ‘tipping point’ with warning patients will ‘pay the price’

A new BDA survey of 2,200 high street dentists in England found that 45% have reduced their NHS commitment since the start of the pandemic (Rui Vieira/PA) (PA Wire)

A new BDA survey of 2,200 high street dentists in England found that 45% have reduced their NHS commitment since the start of the pandemic (Rui Vieira/PA) (PA Wire)

The majority of NHS dental practices in the UK are unable to offer appointments to new adult patients, according to a survey.

The British Dental Association (BDA) and the BBC identified 8,533 dental practices across the UK believed to have NHS contracts and an attempt was made to call them all.

Across England, 91% of NHS practices were not accepting new adult patients, 4,933 out of 5,416, rising to 97% in the East Midlands, and 98% in the South West, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Of these non-adult practices in England, 23% (1,124) said they had an open waiting list, and 16% (791) said the waiting time was a year or longer, or that they could not say how long it would be be.

Of 152 local authorities in England, BBC researchers found no practice accepting new adult NHS patients in 56 (37%) local authorities.

Without real reform and fair funding, NHS dentistry will die and our patients will pay the price

British Dental Association

In England, 79% of NHS practices were not accepting new pediatric patients – 4,293 out of 5,416.

The calls by the BBC found that across Northern Ireland, 90% of NHS practices were not accepting new adult patients.

For Scotland it was 82% and the figure for Wales was 93%.

Shawn Charlwood, Chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: “NHS dentistry is at tipping point, with millions unable to get the care they need and more dentists leaving every day.

“We are seeing the results of years of chronic neglect, put into overdrive by the pressures of the pandemic. The question now is will ministers step up before it is too late?

“Nothing we have heard from the government to date gives us any confidence that this service has a future.

“Without real reform and fair funding, NHS dentistry will die and our patients will pay the price.”

The BDA previously said that since March 2020, around 3,000 dentists are believed to have walked away from NHS work altogether.

A BDA survey of 2,200 high street dentists in England found that 45% have reduced their NHS commitment since the start of the pandemic.

The figures, shared with the PA news agency, also found that 75% are “likely” to reduce, or further reduce, their NHS commitment in the next 12 months.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Improving patient access to NHS dental care is a Government priority and the new dental contract reforms announced last month are an important step, allowing best practices to see more patients, making the better use of the range of professionals working in the sector such as dental therapists, hygienists and nurses, while rewarding dentists more fairly for providing more complex care.

“The NHS commits around £3bn to dental care every year and has made an extra £50m to help stop the Covid backlog, building on the unprecedented £1.7bn support we provided during the pandemic, to protect teams and patients by paying dental practices for the work they would normally have done if it weren’t for the Covid regulations.”

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