Patients Have a Right to NHS Access

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BDA responds to Hancock comments about ‘alternatives’ to NHS care

Dentists respond to Health Secretary comments about patients seeking ‘affordable’ alternatives to NHS care

The British Dental Association has responded to reports that Health Secretary Matt Hancock has encouraged constituents who can no longer access local services to embrace “affordable alternatives” to NHS care.

The BDA represents dentists in both private and NHS practice. It believes that patients value the choice between NHS and private services, but that choice must be real – particularly for those on low incomes and those exempt from NHS charges, including certain benefit recipients, expectant mothers and children.

Access problems have become severe across the East of England – including the Mr Hancock’s West Suffolk seat where several towns have no local access for adult NHS patients. Across the seat less than one in 10 practices can take on new adult NHS patients, with one in five able to take on new child patients.

Dentist leaders have called on the Health Secretary to urgently act on these mounting access and recruitment and retention problems to guarantee the long-term sustainability of the service.

High Street NHS dentistry did not feature at all in the recent 10-Year Plan, and sustained cuts have seen spend per head fall by £4.95, from £40.95 to £36, in the last five years.

The British Dental Association’s Chair of General Dental Practice Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen said: “Patients value a choice between private and NHS dentistry, but Matt Hancock seems content that many of his own constituents have been left with no options.

“A third of the patients NHS dentists see are entitled to free care – including kids, pregnant mums, and many adults on low incomes. If they can’t find access there are often no alternatives.

“The Health Secretary has a responsibility to ensure anyone who wants NHS care can access it.”