NHS dentistry crisis bites Hunt's seat

Law & Regulation
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

BDA says NHS dentistry access crisis reaches Hunt’s seat as stealth cuts and reform failures bite

Rather than delivering on manifesto commitments to reform the ailing NHS dental system, Coalition and Conservative governments have overseen deep cuts according to new research from the British Dental Association (BDA).

The equivalent of just £35 per head was set aside by government to cover dental care for every adult and child in England back in 2006. New analysis has shown spending has fallen by £7.50 per head in real terms in the last decade, as Ministers have chosen not to keep pace with inflation or population growth by nearly five million.

Dentist leaders have described the funding arrangements as “cuts by stealth”, as ministers have paid less, and asked patients to put more into the pot through NHS charges. Revenue drawn from patient charges has gone up by 80% in the same period.

The NHS budget is currently sufficient to cover care for half the English population. Underfunding is now fuelling growing access problems, with a recent Times investigation revealing millions of adult and child patients are now unable to access care – including new patients in 24 English local authorities.

News comes as reports from the Health Secretary’s seat of Surrey South West indicate constituents in Godalming, Farncombe and Milford are now unable to find any NHS dentists able to take new patients, with some patients waiting a year to secure an appointment.

The BDA has called on government to finally deliver on successive manifesto commitments to reform the failed NHS funding system. The current NHS contract effectively sets limits on the number of patients NHS dentists can treat. Dentists are penalised if they don’t hit tough government targets for curative treatments like fillings, but are not allowed to do more even if they have capacity to meet demand.

The BDA’s Chair of General Dental Practice Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen (top) said: “Our patients shouldn’t be clobbered with higher charges simply so government can pull off cuts on the sly. The government is dragging its heels over reform of a system that funds care for barely half the population, and families across England are now paying the price.

“NHS dentistry shouldn’t be a postcode lottery. We hope that now this problem has arrived at Jeremy Hunt’s door he’ll finally do something about it.”

The BDA has looked at population data, and the share of funding contributed by Ministers in England from general taxation. Direct spending is defined as total English NHS General and Primary Dental Services budget less charge revenue drawn from NHS patients in charges. Values for 2015/16 have been compared with 2005/6 looking at how inflation (measured using the Retail Price Index (RPI)) and population growth (based on official ONS mid-year population estimates) have impacted on budgets per head.

• Based on the same methodology Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish governments have all maintained or increased spending per head in the same period.