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Crisis looms as dentists sever NHS ties

NEARLY half of all dentists in England are severing their ties with the NHS as the government fails to move forward on reforms, the British Dental Association (BDA) has warned.

The professional body for dentists will give evidence today to the health and social care committee inquiry into recruitment and retention across healthcare.

It warns that an unprecedented collapse in NHS commitment among dentists in England could spell the end for the service without radical and urgent action from government.

In its survey of over 2,000 high street dentists in England, 45 per cent said they have reduced their NHS commitment since the onset of the pandemic by an average of over a quarter.

And 75 per cent say they are now likely to reduce, or further reduce, their NHS commitment in the next 12 months, the highest level in any BDA survey since the first lockdown.

Nearly half say that they are likely to change careers or seek early retirement while 45 per cent say they are likely to go fully private.

The BDA warned that the discredited NHS dental contract, imposed in 2006, puts government targets ahead of patient needs, effectively setting a limit on the number of NHS treatments a dentist can do in a year.

It was dubbed “unfit for purpose” by the parliamentary health select committee 14 years ago.

The government has promised reform, but has set no timeline of a commitment to funding, which the BDA estimates would be an additional £880 million per year to restore resources to 2010 levels.

BDA general practice committee chairman Shawn Charlwood said: “Overstretched and underfunded, thousands of dentists have already left the NHS, but many more have begun severing their ties. 

“This is how NHS dentistry will die, a lingering decline that unchecked will leave millions of patients with no options.

“This government has ensured that many dentists cannot see a future in this service.”

Toothless in England, a campaign which began in Suffolk over lack of access to dentistry, has been highlighting the shortage of NHS dentists over the past two years.

"Pushing dentists into early retirement or into private practice is the consequence of years and years of government ignorance and hostility towards dental professionals working in the NHS. They play a fundamental role in our communities and need to be treated in the same way as General Practitioners. The government needs to reverse the trend and must invest and levell up NHS dentistry," says Mark Jones, Toothless in England's Campaign Coordinator

Keep Our NHS Public co-chairman Dr John Puntis said that the problems in dentistry have “devastating consequences” for patients. 

“There could be no clearer illustration of this government’s philosophy in relation to publicly funded health care as a whole – fragment and run down services, ignore the concerns of professionals, mislead the public, let the poor suffer and let those who can find the money pay for access to treatment,” he said.





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